This four-track EP of three original songs and a cover of Townes van Zandt’s ‘Waiting ‘Round to Die’ is as close to perfect as you’d want an EP to be. Ortega’s voice is accompanied only by acoustic and slide guitars, and they’re sparsely done at that, allowing all the colours of that voice to be brilliantly on display. There is plaintiveness and tragedy; regret and determination. And that’s just in the first (title) track.
This EP has tones of treatise and sermon. Ortega sounds as though she is saying farewell to what has come before and laying down the tracks for what is ahead while feeling unsure about that new direction. The farewell has not come about because of failure – it feels as though it is a natural progression, even if there is sadness bound up in it. It’s almost as if she is bidding adieu to a great love and forging ahead on her own – that’s what ‘A Girl’s Gotta Do’, as she sings on the second song. Her voice is so pure and nuanced and emotional that it can’t help but resonate with the listener, and it also sounds as if it would carry across plains and over mountains, connecting with everyone who needs to hear what Ortega is singing.
Whatever comes next in Ortega’s career, this EP surely marks a junction. And she is standing at it, calling to the listener with something as close to a siren’s song as we can get on land. She’ll decide where she goes next, of course, but we can be her witnesses. Inside the accomplishment of the music there is a rawness, too, that is touching. By showing us what’s inside her, she pays us all a great compliment: she’s trusting us with what’s there, knowing that what’s inside us isn’t all that different.
Til the Goin’ Gets Gone is out now.