Because of her high soprano vocals, Lindi Ortega is often compared to Dolly Parton, but her style couldn't be more different. Parton imbues everything she sings, even her most poignant songs, with an almost breathless optimism. Ortega's stock in trade is the darker side of life, specializing in love songs full of heartache, betrayal, and depression. Even when she sings happy songs like "Cigarettes & Truckstops" and "Every Mile of the Ride," her voice seems to be coming from a place where uncertainty and insecurity spin together in a hopeless and melancholy dance. Colin Linden's production emphasizes the music's despondent vibe by combining deep, throbbing bass tones with the wide-open, twangy sound of spaghetti Western guitars. It's a thick atmospheric sound perfectly suited to Ortega's aching tales of love gone awry. Most of the songs are taken at a funeral pace that befits the desperate subject matter. The obsessive lover in "Lead Me On" longs to be free, but Ortega's vocal suggests a fatal fondness for the tormentor that's intensified by Linden's spectral guitar work. Ortega's anguish is palpable on "Heaven Has No Vacancy," a grim gospel tune, while on "Use Me" she offers herself as an antidote to her lover's self-destructive habits, but her vocal again suggests the futility of caring for a lover trapped in a downward spiral. The rockers are just as grim as the ballads. "The Day You Die" is a honky tonk romp that belies Ortega's wrenching vocal portrayal of a woman trying to break away from a dead-end relationship. She rides a sharp swampy Creedence Clearwater groove on "Murder of Crows," praying that nobody will discover the body buried in the backyard. Linden's sinister slide work complements Ortega's wailing vocal.
Cigarettes & Truckstops Review
by j. poet