From the first blast of Canadian-Tennesseean Lindi Ortega’s latest album, Tin Star, I fell hook, line and sinker. Ortega’s voice sounds like it could belong to an Andrews Sister but it is also perfectly in place atop these songs that are both country and Western, and which make you think that Ortega is hanging over a saloon door, calling out to lost love – just in case it can prove itself one last time – yet determined to hitch up her wagon and get out of town.
The album’s lyrical content suggests that it is autobiographical – ‘Gypsy Child’ charts her journey ‘all the way from Toronto to Tennessee’. In the title track she sings, Well, you don’t know me/I’m a nobody … Like an old tin star all beat-up and rusty/Lost in the shining stars of Nashville, Tennessee/Well, I wrote this song for those who are like me. These lyrics initially seem disingenuous because she simply doesn’t sound like a nobody – she sounds like someone you can’t ignore, someone you shouldn’t delay knowing a moment longer – but she is sincere, and these lyrics, like many others on the album, depict her as a dreamer whose dream has taken her far and is still being played out.
There’s an underlying melancholy to some of the tracks, such as ‘Lived and Died Alone’ and including ‘Tin Star’. It’s a necessary balance to the brassiness of some of the other tracks, because Ortega is not a one-note performer. Moreover, we have the sense that she is always in command. The lyric ‘I want you to want me’ in ‘I Want You’ sounds like it should be coming from a desperado – but Ortega sounds as if she’s in no doubt about the outcome: she will prevail.
Having been gripped by the first bar of this album, I was still in thrall by the end – and over and over again. It’s an accomplished piece of work from that best kind of dreamer: the one whose dream is made manifest.
Tin Star by Lindi Ortega is out now (through Last Gang Records in Australia).
Lindi Ortega is touring Australia:
Tuesday 22 April at The Toff in Town in Melbourne
Tickets from thetoffintown.com
Thursday 24 April at Brighton Up Bar in Sydney
Tickets from gobookem.com
Lindi will also appear at:
Gumball Festival, Hunter Valley, NSW – 12 April
National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT – 17-19 April