Music Review: Cigarettes & Truckstops – Lindi Ortega [ Last Gang Records]

Let’s deal with the obvious first, yes,  Nashville-by-way-of-Toronto Lindi Ortega’s soprano trill is reminiscent to a certain buxom, bewigged country music superstar. It’s not something she shies away from. Hell she even name-checks Dolly on the title cut.  But where Dolly would chirp hopefully within every syllable leading to a home-spun happy ending Ortega takes a dreamy Julie Cruise into a beautifully melancholic coastal journey driving the protagonist toward a reunion with a love that may (or may not) end well.

The Day You Die is a dark tune about enduring a loveless marriage, though you might miss that with it’s lively shuffle. Despair and hopelessness also runs through Lead Me On, where a the title plays on the equine and behavioral definition. This tale of unrequited love is as beautifully sad and gritty and echos classic heartache from the Tammy Wynette songbook.

“Don’t Wanna Hear” simmers with rockabilly sass that show’s why she was slated to open slot for Orange County roots-punkers Social Distortion. The Middle-East tinged dobro of the confessional Murder of Crows and the Old Testament haunted Heaven Has No Vacancy are beautiful dark roots dirges that would make Lonesome Wyatt wail in agony.

Colin Linden ( Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams, T-Bone Burnett) production does an excellent job of allowing Ortega’s tales of darkness and love to glide over the entirety of “Cigarettes & Truckstops” by setting just the right amount of solemn atmosphere or shifting into an open road twang when necessary.

“Cigarettes & Truckstops,” Lindi Ortega’s follow-up to 2011’s excellent “Little Red Boots,” proves the lady’s no fluke. The nearly flawless album displays a maturity and depth that ” Boots” only hinted at and gives us one of the best Americana music releases of the year.

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