Lindi Ortega: Little Red Boots

Videos by American Songwriter

Lindi Ortega
Little Red Boots
(Last Gang Records)
[Rating: 3.5 stars]

There’s a beguiling elusive quality to Lindi Ortega’s music. She’s country; she’s rock. She’s old world and new school. She’s extroverted and introverted. She’s joyful and she’s depressed. Obviously, Ortega is a woman of many musical, and emotional, moods. What’s truly impressive is how well she brings together all of these elements on Little Red Boots.

If you just heard the disc’s opening track, the lively “Little Lie,” you’d get the impression that Ortega could be the love child of Johnny Cash and Nancy Sinatra. The tune gallops along with a Tennessee Three rhythm as she sassily sings about being a not particularly honest girl. This spirited country-billy vibe surfaces elsewhere on songs like “Blue Bird” and “I’m No Elvis Presley.” In “Blue Bird,” however, she also infuses some bluegrass seasoning, while “Presley” gets supercharged by a rocking guitar solo.

“Presley” also spotlights the feisty side of her personality. In the song she confronts someone who isn’t respecting her music and proclaims: “I’m no Elvis Presley/Who the hell are you.” Curiously, the other song where she takes on a particularly assertive persona is in the title track, which also deals with being a musician. Here she sings – all sultry and strong – that “I came to sing this song/then I’ll be on my way…You’re gonna know me by my little red boots.”

Ortega is blessed with a powerful voice that is full of honesty. She totally conveys a sense of yearning for love on “When All The Stars Align,” a melodic soft pop tune with just a hint of twang. Similarly, she puts across the inspirational sentiment in “Fall Down Or Fly,” a catchy tune about reaching your potential that could easily attract Nashville’s attention for its country-pop crossover potential. Another contender would be “Black Fly,” a mid-tempo country rock with a big, easy-going-down chorus.

With its story of a bad love too good to resist, “Black Fly” also underscores the theme of heartache that runs through the disc. In songs like “Angels,” “So Sad,” and “Dying Of Another Broken Heart,” Ortega deals with sorrow and despair. While “Angels” presents itself as a nice honky tonk shuffle, it’s a fairly dark song if you listen closely to the lyrics: “All of my dear friends have abandoned me/I’m just a stranger in a strange city.” Similarly, you can really feel her pain when she sings “There’s no amount of morphine that will ever ease my pain/I know it’s not a heart attack but it sure feels the same” in “Dying Of Another Broken Heart.”

She closes the disc with the blue and bluesy “So Sad.” Although she is addressing someone else in the song, Ortega sounds truly believable when she sings lines like “When life leaves you by the road/abandoned and alone/and you’ve never, ever been so freezing cold.” The longest album track (at over 5 minutes long), the song recalls another Toronto-bred act, the Cowboy Junkies, as it take a languid, dark journey that is punctuated by moments of noisy guitars.

Part of her success here is also due to the able hand of producer Ron Lopata and her supporting players. The arrangements showcase Ortega’s vocals but don’t lack character either. There are expected touches (banjos and lap steel) and unexpected ones (glockenspiel and horns) that add welcome sonic textures to Ortega’s tunes.

Ortega, following in the footsteps of acts like the Cowboy Junkies and Kathleen Edwards, is the latest Canadian import to cross the border with an impressive take on Americana. More specifically, her melding of country and rock recalls a young Neko Case (a one-time Canadian) and Sarah Borges. In “Presley,” Ortega asserts that “I know I’m not legendary/I’m nothing extraordinary.” While she certainly isn’t famous yet, Ortega definitely displays enough talent here to indicate she deserves to be better known and should have a long career ahead of her.


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