Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It took four producers working in two cities (Muscle Shoals and Nashville) to realize singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega’s Americana vision on her fourth album, but the results were worth it. Based on recording location alone the varied musical approach to these 10 cuts veers from straight country, to rockabilly, R&B, rootsy rock and even some pop, all connected by Ortega’s trilling, bittersweet, instantly recognizable vocals.
Regardless of the style, Ortega’s lyrics have typically ventured to the darker sides of love and life and that hasn’t changed. The melancholy title track, apparently inspired by Jeff Bridges’ performance in Crazy Heart, captures the frustrations and fading memories of those who have “chased our dreams into the ground.” Similar downbeat sentiments of looking for better times around the next corner inform “Someday Soon” (not the classic popularized by Judy Collins) and even the cheerful pop of “I Ain’t the Girl,” the latter finding Ortega in a feisty mood warning a potential suitor “if you can’t light my fire/then you will never do.”
Even the darkest moments such as “When You Ain’t Home” about a lover who unexpectedly left the singer heartbroken, reveal tasteful, sparkling yet never sterile arrangements including subtle horns, organ and backing vocals. Every tune boasts a memorable melody that along with Ortega’s emotional vocals, particularly powerful on “Tell It Like It Is” (not the Aaron Neville oldie), make each one resonate after an initial spin. Certainly the opening “Ashes” (at 4 ½ minutes the album’s longest selection), another lover-who-left unexpectedly tale, that chugs along on a swampy groove and grimy slide guitar, is among the most moving tunes in her catalog. And while it’s a stretch to say her take on the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” (initially written for Otis Redding) bests the original, it’s still a rousing, soulful performance seemingly inspired by Dusty In Memphis.
The closing ballad “Half Moon” (not the Janis Joplin associated gem) wraps up this inspired collection on a sentimental and hopeful note; not just concerning the song’s protagonist but for Ortega who, by expanding her musical reach, has delivered her finest work yet.