In the title song of her sixth album, Lindi Ortega sings: "There ain’t no stars in Faded Gloryville / We’ve chased our dreams into the ground / If disillusion has some hope to kill / Here nobody wears a crown.” The song was inspired by 2009 film Crazy Heart, but a comment last night suggested it's also auto biographical. The music business is tough, as Lindi explained in an interview: “People don’t understand how hard musicians struggle…But then I met a girl in Colorado who told me she was an addict, my songs inspired her to get out of the downward spiral…" The quiet, sensitive acoustic support act, Jordan Klassen illustrated this challenge last night. He came all the way from Vancouver, yet much of the Saturday night Manchester audience seemed oblivious of his movingly therapeutic songs, written in part as a response to his mother's cancer diagnosis, as they talked throughout the set.
Lindi's built a loyal fan base through sheer heard work, reaching headline status through relentless touring, having already refined her craft on the Toronto circuit for a decade. Her act is polished, and the stagecraft slick as she moves around stage, actively engaging the audience. She's talked about naturally being an introvert, yet she remains in character, with a confident demeanour and engaging personality. Lindi benefits from a husky, tremulous voice which has been compared to Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn's, but James Robertson's amazing guitar playing also contributed much to the success of the gig. I've experienced this act twice before in Manchester at small venues, in 2013 at The Soup Kitchen and 2014 at The Deaf Institute, but it feels as though they've developed to the point that they could easily command the attention of far larger crowds.
Faded Gloryville is distinguished by the collaboration with John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner, keyboard player in Alabama Shakes, as well as producer Dave Cobb, whom Lindi worked with on Tin Star. They've brought the welcome influence of classic Muscle Shoals rock, particularly to the first part of the album. Yet Lindi's always drawn influences from deep in the past, and she's far from a conventional country artist, valuing artistic freedom over commercial success. Happily, the set was heavy on songs from my favourite album, 2012's Cigarettes and Truckstops, though I missed the closing song from her latest record, the beautiful Half Moon, which is about life's struggles. This is a reminder that Faded Gloryville's melancholic side is about more than the trials of the music industry: it's about unfulfilled dreams in general, and coping with sadness.
Yet, if Lindi's lyrics are sometimes dark, the effect of the relentless energy and enthusiasm is uplifting. This is above all an act that must be seen live, as the performance transcends the conventions of the song writing. As Pitchfork said recently, she has the ability to peal back country convention to find weird new emotions. Musically, too, she brings blues, Americana and even jazz into a conservative genre. Perhaps a certain independence of spirit is necessary for survival in this world. Lindi wrote an opinion piece last summer about how country music radio in America has become the 'bro country domain', and more recently called out a sexist reviewer of this tour, who'd attributed her catching the cold virus to fashion choices. Lindi's a resilient performer at the highest level, who can teach us all about persistence, hard work, and bouncing back from Faded Gloryville.
- Heaven Has No Vacancy (Cigarettes & Truckstops)
- *I Ain't The Girl
- Demons Don't Get Me Down (Cigarettes &Truckstops)
- *Faded Gloryville
- *When You Ain't Home
- Angels (Little Red Boots)
- Hard As This (Tin Star)
- *Run Amuck
- *Tell It Like It Is
- Cigarettes and Truckstops
- *To Love Somebody
- The Day You Die (Cigarettes & Truckstops)