Star rating 8/10
When I first saw Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega play live in the intimate surroundings of at the Castle Hotel in Manchester last February, I was taken aback by the power of the voice coming from such a slight singer. She has now moved from Toronto to live in the country capital of the world - Nashville. And has released a second album, Cigarettes and Truckstops, which follows on nicely from where she left off with her first release, Little Red Boots. And she is showing no signs of letting up, again commanding the stage despite being small in stature.
This time in the more grungy atmosphere of the Soup Kitchen, which suits her sexy, sassy, and confessional style rather well, she again sang her heart out for all to hear. She was accompanied this time by her friend Tom on guitar, and even by her tour manager Dave on tambourine and shaker for some of the numbers. The crowd were disconcertingly quiet - a more lively, raunchy atmosphere would have helped things along. But regardless Lindi poured her emotions out in great new numbers like Demons Don't Get Me Down, about being lonely and blue in Nashville without her family and friends. The title song of her latest release is about an ill fated romance on tour, which she impetuously followed up by boarding a Greyhound bus and going across the US - I'd rather have you still you still beside me than have you always running through my mind. Oh look out California - I'm coming for my lover's heart tonight - she sings. And you really can picture her doing just that.
Some of her songs are more upbeat in tone, even though the subject matter may not be - All My Friends is about late night debauchery and dubious friends, for example. Little Lie is a lovely rock and rock infused number, revealing all the power in her wonderful voice. Angels also has a great rocky feel, but complete with country style heartbreak of course. She seems to feel more at home dealing with despair and heartache, no matter how sweetly she sings, covering subjects such as suicide by jumping off bridges; medicating deep pain with drugs and alcohol; and all manner of unsuitable or doomed relationships. She is an enchanting mix of vulnerability and raw power, and is a big talent.
She does a good line in covers, including a great husky, sad, slow version of House of the Rising Sun. And the glorious Makin' Believe - first sung by Kitty Wells and since covered by a range of stars including Emmylou Harris. Her love of Johnny Cash was revealed in a slow version of Ring Of Fire, as well as Fulsome Prison Blues. And Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz got an outing in the encore. Great though these covers are, and no one can deny that Ortega is skilled at making them her own, I would rather she had played more of her own songs. Some great ones from her first album were omitted due to the number of covers she sang, which was a shame as she is a brilliant song writer.
Lately I have heard some of her music on the fabulous TV series Nashville (what do you mean you haven't been watching it - shame on you - Thursdays 10pm More4 - you will thank me), so hopefully it won't be long before she gets wider recognition for her music, but I do hope she still plays in smaller seedier venues - it sort of suits her, in a good way.