Today in country music, a big topic of discussion is how to solve the lack of female representation in the genre. Special programs have been set up, dedicated features are done on many of country music’s budding female stars in major periodicals. But so many of those efforts focus on female artists who are unproven, and inexperienced in connecting with audiences on a nightly basis.
Meanwhile out there on the club and honky-tonk circuit are women with skins on the wall, proven talent, and built-in fan bases that go regularly overlooked as options to bring compelling female voices to the big leagues of country. One such artist is the Canadian-born Lindi Ortega, who has just released her latest album through Last Gang Records called Faded Gloryville. The title song tackles this very subject of struggling artists being unfortunately overlooked, but instead of being bitter about it, Lindi, as she has always done, draws inspiration from her true life experiences and the struggles her and others face, and canonizes these characters and trying moments by channeling them into compelling narratives.
Faded Gloryville in some respects is a tale of two records. If you pay enough attention to independent country and roots music these days, you more than likely recognize the name Dave Cobb. The producer extraordinaire is the wizard behind the wild success of artists such as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, and was the producer of Lindi’s last record, the acclaimed Tin Star. Beginning an album with Dave Cobb in your corner is one of the strongest hands you can play as an independent artist, and that’s the starting point of Faded Gloryville.
But speaking to Lindi’s strength, confidence, vision, and maybe a little stubbornness, she wasn’t content with just settling with the hottest producer in Americana and saying it was good enough. Lindi has always found ways to shake things up with each album, and she did so by bringing other minds into the mix for Faded Gloryville. And when one of those other minds is former Civil Wars singer and guitarist John Paul White, you can rest assured Lindi’s original compositions are still in very capable hands. White presided over sessions for Ortega in the famous Florence/Muscle Shoals area of Alabama to capture that classic, gritty, and sweaty soul sound in a selection of Lindi’s new tracks.
The first portion of Faded Gloryville would only be fair to call more classic soul and rock & roll as opposed to country. Organ, horns in places, and a cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” make for a groove-laden and classic experience. If nothing else it is during these sessions that Lindi’s voice, already the recipient of grand accolades, really blooms on tape like we’ve never heard before. Her natural vibrato, her Werther’s Original caramelized tone folded into a smoky aroma and encrusted with Rhinestone memories, reaches for your heartstrings and squeezes tight. Some of these moments may even be a little too rich for those used to dining on the eepish voices of many of today’s reserved and character-bereft singers.
The first song of the new album “Ashes” is worth reserving a place on a future Lindi Ortega Greatest Hits package. The theme of the title song “Faded Gloryville” may be a little too close to the theme of the title song “Tin Star” from her previous record, though this is Lindi’s signature—the semi-famous, struggling artist who refuses to compromise, and instead decides to find the beauty and inspiration in humble and real things.
The last four songs of Faded Gloryville are where Lindi is unleashed, and may sound more familiar to what long-time fans are used to hearing in previous albums. “Run Down Neighborhood” speaks to the always-present focus on social status that living in a town like Nashville can remind its artistic residents of, whether they want to be reminded or not. In “I Ain’t The Girl,” Lindi explains that despite her dolled-up nature, she isn’t looking for a high-class sugar daddy, but a rough and tumble type that resembles Thor to keep her happy at night. Lindi kicks up her red boots in “Run Amuck” right before she steals your heart away with the final track, and what might be the best track on the album, the poetic, sedated, and heartfelt “Half Moon.”
The Tin Star of Faded Gloryville loves to harp on her downtrodden and depreciated status amongst the riff raff residing behind the alleyways of stardom. There’s a poetry to it for Lindi. But for those seeking the beauty lurking between the margins, for those who appreciate the value of the treasures one can find on the road less traveled, Lindi Ortega has already attained iconic status, and Faded Gloryville is yet another gem in her tiara.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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