Review: Lindi Ortega – The Duchess, York

Lindi Ortega

The Duchess

January 20, 2016

The Duchess website

Lindi Ortega is 35 years of age and hails from Toronto, Ontario. Now based in Nashville, Tennessee, her musical career can be traced back to the new millennium.

It has spawned six albums (if account is taken of her two earlier, independent releases), the most recent of which was Faded Gloryville.

Released last August to almost universal critical acclaim, Faded Gloryville was partly inspired by Scott Cooper’s 2009 film Crazy Heart in which Jeff Bridges plays a washed-up country singer in search of redemption. 

Whilst any parallels between Lindi Ortega’s personal and professional life and Bridges’ character in the film would appear to be greatly overstated, both do appear to share the same central characteristics of unsentimental self-doubt and an impassioned belief just to carry on.

And it is to Faded Gloryville that Lindi Ortega first goes this evening.

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Lonesome swoon

Enthralling – Ortega
Enthralling – Ortega

Accompanied by her stellar three-piece band, she eases effortlessly into Run-Down Neighborhood before leading us all through an enthralling 85 minute set that not only spans 18 songs and a most diverse range of musical genres but also gives lie to her being perennially pigeonholed as a country artist.

The blood of 50s, 60s and 70s classic country – that of Hank Williams (who, coincidentally, features heavily on the Crazy Heart soundtrack), Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris – undoubtedly courses through Lindi Ortega’s veins.

And a number of her songs do feature those old thematic country staples of failed relationships and emotional desolation – the anguished Dying of Another Broken Heart and the lonesome swoon of Half Moon are cases in point – but for all of their wracked heartache and acute sense of loss, these are songs that are ultimately imbued with hope, spirit and fierce determination.

Ortega performed a diverse range of genres
Ortega performed a diverse range of genres

Old school

Faded Gloryville proves that Lindi Ortega is much more than just a country musician, embracing as it does strong elements of the blues, rockabilly, RnB and soul.

Tonight Ortega confirms this musical versatility with the magnificent title track from that record – complete with a breath-taking bottleneck slide solo from regular live guitarist ‘Champagne’ James Robertson – the rattling rockabilly of Run Amuck and glorious, soulful readings of The Bee GeesTo Love Somebody (a song that had originally been intended for Otis Redding) and the evening’s first encore, Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me.

Lindi was backed by a stellar band
Lindi was backed by a stellar band
The soulful Miss O
The soulful Miss O

Affirming her apparently innate ability to interpret the songs of others, Lindi Ortega also performs The EaglesDesperado.

A regular feature of her recent live shows, it is given an even greater poignancy by the death earlier this week of that band’s founding member, and the song’s co-writer Glenn Frey.

She signs off with another remarkable cover – slowing Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ right down into a beautiful bluesy dirge – thus ending an evening of stunning music ingrained with the most heightened sense of lived experience.