Lindi Ortega — Liberty (March 30, 2018)♦ο♦ Canadian~born alt~country songbird with a voice that fuses Nashville purity with big city sophistication.
Born: May 28, 1980 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada ~ Nashville, TN
Album release: March 30, 2018
Record Label: Shadowbox Records / Soundly Music, LLC
Through The Dust Part I 1:25
01. Afraid of the Dark 4:03
02. You Ain’t Foolin’ Me 4:32
03. ‘Til My Dyin’ Day 3:00
04. Nothing’s Impossible 2:42
Though The Dust Part II 1:06
05. The Comeback Kid 2:58
06. Darkness Be Gone 3:50
07. Forever Blue 3:43
08. In The Clear 4:03
09. Pablo 4:19
10. Lovers In Love 3:06
Through The Dust Part III 1:05
11. Liberty 3:07
12. Gracias a la Vida 3:06
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
•Ω• In the early 2010s, Canadian born alt~country singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega had had enough. Discouraged with not being able to make a living despite having charting records, Juno and Grammy nominations, critical acclaim, and endless touring, she chucked everything: Nashville, her label, her agent, and her manager, and moved to Calgary. She got married and, inspired by her husband and new manager, tried again, resulting in 2017’s acclaimed Til the Goin’ Gets Gone EP.
•Ω• Liberty, her cinematic seventh album, is the story of that journey. It’s a concept record about a journey through darkness to light. Its songs are thematically linked as stages in transition. Inspired by the spaghetti western scores of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, and Nico Fidenco, and the unruly movies of Quentin Tarantino, she returned to Nashville to work with producer Skylar Wilson — the two bonded over Tarantino’s films — and wrote or co~wrote songs with him, John Paul White, Bruce Wallace, and Aaron Raitiere. She also enlisted Steelism (Spencer Cullum, Jr. on pedal steel and slide, and guitarist Jeremy Fetzer), a Nashville duo whose predominantly instrumental work gravitates toward a widescreen western style of country. The three sections of the uncharacteristically ballad~heavy Liberty are held together by Steelism’s windswept desert theme “Through the Dust.” “Afraid of the Dark,” co~written with White, offers fingerpicked nylon string and electric slide guitars, upright bass, and tom~toms; the grain in Ortega’s voice offers a tale of possession by darkness through self~loathing and depression. A whining steel guitar frames her reverbed singing in a spacious Western, desert~tinged soundscape with the baritone and soprano Liberty Choir chorus adding to the atmosphere. The traces of her rockabilly style pop up in “You Ain’t Feelin Me,” which addresses two~faced acquaintances masquerading as friends amid rumbling drums, B~3 organ, and distorted guitars, as well as a lovely mariachi interlude. The other White co~write is “Nothing’s Impossible,” a lilting, deeply sad honky tonk ballad that could have been produced by a young Owen Bradley. First single “The Comeback Kid (written with Wilson) draws on Marty Robbins, Leon Payne, and Charlie Feathers in a yarn about a character who gets shot but doesn’t die, and who’s now ready to haunt her would~be assassins: “...You took my life and wrecked it/But I’ve been resurrected...” (Think Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.) “Forever Blue” is the first song on the journey to the light. Transcendence and transformation are hinted at first in the ethereal “In the Clear,” co~written with Raitiere, and episodes of romantic love in “Pablo” and Lovers in Love” offer confirmation that our protagonist is on the right track. Her transition is completed in the languid title track and underscored by the album’s lone cover, “Gracias a la Vida,” by Chilean composer Violeta Parra; it’s a bolero~um~mariachi that simply and powerfully expresses gratitude for surviving the darkness and for life and its wonders. While Liberty is more often than not gentler in tone than Ortega's preceding albums, it is by far her most innovative and powerful, and stands as her masterwork thus far. •Ω• https://www.allmusic.com/
•Ω• Lindi Ortega gives fair warning: “Don’t come any closer to my heart /If you’re afraid of the dark.”
•Ω• However, that shroud is slowly lifted in Liberty . As the narrative unfolds in this concept album, a central character emerges — one who finally sheds the darkness of her past and emerges into the light. As melodies and tempos change throughout Liberty , her journey carries her steadily forward. Listen closely and you’ll find Ortega’s experiences in the lyrics too.
•Ω• “I think the most important thing for me was that I ended on a very positive note because I’ve had so many people tell me that my songs helped them through really hard times in their life,” Ortega says. “That struck a chord for me, because just like everybody else, I have had hard times in my life, and continue to have pockets of difficult moments here and there. If I can provide some sort of solace with my music, then that gives me every reason to make music. I wanted this record to be all about helping people through the darkness.”
•Ω• The melodies and arrangements of Liberty draw on the epic work of Oscar~winning composer Ennio Morricone, who became one of Ortega’s musical obsessions during the writing and recording of Liberty . Moreover she enlisted Nashville producer Skylar Wilson (Justin Townes Earle, Rayland Baxter) when she discovered their shared passion for Quentin Tarantino movies. It is fitting that NPR’s All Things Considered has described Ortega as “ genre~defying in both her music and her personal style.”
•Ω• “I’ve never had a cohesive album like this before,” she says. “This record’s quite different in that I'm actually taking a bit of a step back, being softer, having more nuance in the way I'm singing, and it's been a welcome challenge. I went into this creating songs with unpredictable chord changes, which allowed for it to sound more musical and interesting to me.”
•Ω• During the sessions at Battle Tapes studio in East Nashville, Ortega and Wilson scaled back the boot~stomping, throwback country approach that she’s known for, instead polishing a set of music that reflects her lineage. Her father is Mexican; her mother is Irish. Ortega cites Linda Ronstadt’s album Canciones de mi Padre (translated as Songs of My Father ) and her mother’s vinyl collection of ‘70s country songwriters like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson as major influences in her music today. The sonic landscape of Liberty is enhanced by Nashville band Steelism, known for their dramatic blend of pedal steel guitar and electric guitar, as well as Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy on harmonica.
•Ω• “I wanted to do something musical and cinematic. It was really important for me to expand my horizons and pave new ground for myself,” she says. “This is my first time singing in Spanish. I have always wanted to write chorus for a Spanish chorus for an original song. I won’t claim to have the most perfect diction in the world with it. But I can say that I gave it my all, and that I felt very proud to be able to do that, because I’m a huge fan of Mexican culture. It’s very different than anything I've done before and I find that really exciting.”
•Ω• As the album progresses, the listener gets the sense that the protagonist is leaving behind her past, whether it’s a crowd of unsavory characters in “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me” or perhaps a lost love from childhood in “Til My Dyin Day.” Grief turns to desperation in “Nothing’s Impossible” and “The Comeback Kid.” The tides begin to turn on “Darkness Be Done.” About halfway through, with “Forever Blue,” the character makes a choice to follow the light.
•Ω• Meanwhile the song “Pablo” is inspired by her new husband, Daniel Huscroft. With a lilting melody and clever lyrics, “Lovers in Love” showcases Ortega’s skillful songwriting. For Liberty , she composed roughly half of the songs alone. On the remaining tracks, her co~writers include Aaron Raitiere, Bruce Wallace and John Paul White (The Civil Wars).
•Ω• Throughout her career, Ortega has remained committed to putting on a good performance for her audience. Most nights, she will come out after the show to sign autographs, take photos, and just visit. When she shared her stunning wedding photos on social media, she admits that her followers were quite alarmed. They expressed their concern that the flow of sad songs would come to an abrupt halt. After hearing Liberty, those listeners will realize there was no need to worry.
•Ω• “When you have experiences that are dark, you can always draw from that well. You don’t forget it. You don’t erase it — I don’t ever want to erase it because it makes me who I am,” Ortega says. “And it helps me relate to other people who have similar experiences. You can’t truly appreciate happiness in life unless you’ve understood what it’s like to feel the opposite way.”
•Ω• Ortega concludes the album with “Gracia a la Vida” from the pen of Chilean composer Violeta Parra. The title translates as “Thank you to Life.”
•Ω• “Even though I always tried to have a silver lining, whether it’s by making my songs tongue~in~cheek, or writing some dark lyrics to happy music, there’s always been an element of balancing light and dark on my previous albums,” Ortega explains. “But this is a full story, and I want everybody to be able to take something away from it at the end of the day.”
•Ω• “By the end, it feels like you’ve been laid down in pure light.” — Noisey
•Ω• “Nothing less than a battle cry.” — Refinery 29
•Ω• “Completely arresting” — No Depression
•Ω• “Ortega’s spirited, reverb~laden croon fills the sonic space with a mixture of dread and glee for her character’s impending triumph.” — Rolling Stone Country
JEFF DEDEKKER, REGINA LEADER~POST | Published on: January 18, 2018 |
•Ω• Lindi Ortega has found her place in the world of music. It might not have all the trappings of stardom but its comfort level that can’t be beat.
•Ω• Ortega, who will be in Regina on Jan. 20 for Winterruption 2018, has been performing professionally since 2001. Over that time, she has developed a unique style that features intriguing vocals and deeply emotional lyrics.
•Ω• Originally from Toronto, Ortega followed her music dreams to Nashville. During her time in Music City, Ortega fashioned a successful career that included critically acclaimed albums and entertaining live shows. While this template is enough for Ortega to sustain a career, it has fallen short of making her a superstar in the music business but she’s okay with that.
•Ω• “I stopped sort of chasing the dream of breaking and being sort a big deal in the industry a long time ago,” Ortega explained in a recent telephone interview to advance her 35~date tour which opens Jan. 19 in Saskatoon. “I’m not really interested in being famous or making a lot of money. It would be nice to not have to worry about money but I don’t want to trade the freedom of doing the music that I enjoy creating and love to perform for simply trying to get a hit on the radio or making a lot of money.”
•Ω• “For me, I guess my creative integrity is the most important thing for me and if that means I’m an under the radar artist for the rest of my life, then so be it. At least I’m rich in creative freedom.”
•Ω• Ortega, who moved to Calgary last year and recently got married to guitarist Daniel Huscroft, knows that many people in the real world slog off every morning to jobs that they absolutely hate. Ortega, on the other hand, has a job she truly loves and treasures.
•Ω• “It’s great to be able to do your passion for a living,” said Ortega.
•Ω• The tour, which has 15 Canadian dates mixed with 20 U.S. shows, is slated to run through May 12. It comes on the heels of Til The Goin’ Gets Gone, a four~song EP that Ortega released on March 17, 2017. The album, her first since parting ways with Last Gang Records, is truly an independent recording — in an interview last year with Postmedia, Ortega said she scrambled to find a “measly budget” to make the recording.
•Ω• Comprised of three original songs — What A Girls Gotta Do, Final Bow and Til The Goin’ Gets Gone — along with a cover of Waiting Around To Die, a Townes Van Zandt cover, the album has garnered rave reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.
•Ω• As Ortega continues her independent journey, she’s getting ready to unveil her biggest project to date: a concept album that she just couldn’t help but create. Titled Liberty, the album was inspired by Ortega’s love of spaghetti western movies and how that genre walks hand~in~hand with the realities of life.
•Ω• “I look at this record as a spaghetti western spectacular,” Ortega said with a laugh. “It’s very influenced by spaghetti westerns but it’s spaghetti westerns the way Lindi Ortega would do it. I don’t even know what that is but it’s my take on a character who is driven and goes from dark situations to find their way, crawling out of a dark tunnel into the light and toward something more positive. That was really important for me for this record because so often I’d speak to people after shows and they’d come up to me and tell me how certain songs got them through really dark times in their lives.”
•Ω• “I wanted to make a whole record that spoke to that so that’s where the idea was born.”
•Ω• Being an independent artist was an advantage in this particular case for Ortega as most labels would shy away from allowing an artist the leeway to pursue such an unusual project. As an independent artist, Ortega controlled everything about the project. She decided what her vision was and then went ahead and captured that vision.
•Ω• “It’s all on me at the end of the day,” said Ortega. “That’s a big amount of freedom, that’s for sure. The record is called Liberty and I think it mirrors my own journey through the darkness. I also made it so it could mirror anybody’s journey toward freedom and liberty, away from anything that holds them down or holds them back in life.”
•Ω• Liberty is scheduled to be released on March 30 and Ortega expects to share some of the new music on this tour.
•Ω• “As a precursor to the record coming out I might throw in a few tunes and definitely make mention of it coming out,” said Ortega. “I’ll play a couple of tunes and see how they like them.” •Ω• http://leaderpost.com/