It’s admittedly hard to hold on to your objectivity when this raven from the Great White North rises in song and such a wave of emotion and beauty grips you that your rationality is sent reeling and all your senses are completely submerged and made submissive to her sway. Lindi Ortega is a creature of the darkness. She highlights the beauty in the world not by shining a light on it, but painting the rest black until the beauty is all that is left. She cherishes life by celebrating death. She makes you feel joy by bringing you to tears. She is the antithesis to an obvious, transparent world, all freshly fallen snow and onyx—biting, contrasting, revitalizing the attention to life and its many dark beauties simply by her presence.
Whereas Lindi’s last album Cigarettes & Truckstops had a definitively dark, Gothic tinge, Tin Star is more of an equitable, neotraditional take, though the dark shades still tickle the edges and emerge from the shadows here and there. In fact Tin Star is downright boot stomping in places, traversing the carnivorous streets of Nashville defiantly, taking a trip down to Louisiana to serenade the chorus of songs bleeding through weathered shutters out into the streets, and even to south of the border to find inspiration in the tragic character of Frida Kahlo.
Produced by Dave Cobb who was also at the helm for Sturgill Simpson’s critically-acclaimed High Top Mountain, Tin Star captures Lindi Ortega very much in the current moments of her life as a Canadian songbird with a fiercely independent spirit living amongst the daunting skyscrapers and superstars of Music City. Dare I say there’s even an air of bravado and downright protest in some of Tin Star‘s songs, including the title track:
“Well you don’t know me, I’m a nobody. I sing on the Strip, for a few pennies. I’ve got a busted string, and a broken guitar. I’ve been singing for tips down at the local bar. Like an old tin star I’m beat up and rusting, lost in the shining stars of Nashville, Tennessee Well I wrote this song for those who are like me, lost in the shining stars, the shining stars…
The song “All These Cats” ratchets up the bravado another notch, brandishing balled-up little fists towards any and all Lindi detractors trying to “run her out of town.” Tin Star has some fight in it, some tempo here and there, and teeters towards downright rock and roll in places, like in the desirous “I Want You.” Tin Star is spicy, touching on a wide range of emotions and textures.
But the real message and worth of Tin Star lies in Lindi’s poetic disposition, rivaling the wordsmith skills of most any other present-day balladist in its depth and artistic evocation, maybe most evidenced in the song “Something For You” that is appropriately about finding the words to express your true feelings. And as always, Lindi’s voice is both fragile and confident, smoky and pleasantly patina’d; naturally diminishing into an adorable vibrato at the end of phrases to press any and all of your emotional buttons.
Lindi Ortega may see her star as old, beat up, and rusting. But I for one am blinded by its splendor.
Two guns up / Five Stars
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