Lindi Ortega

Little LieLittle Red Boots
All My FriendsLittle Red Boots
Cigarettes & TruckstopsCigarettes & Truckstops
Don't Wanna Hear ItCigarettes & Truckstops
Hard As ThisTin Star
Gypsy ChildTin Star
Tin StarTin Star
Lived And Died AloneTin Star
I Want YouTin Star
Songs AboutTin Star


Lindi Ortega playlist



Contributor: Calvin Rydbom

“Lindi seasons her musical scores like a deranged chef whipping up a culinary creation. A dash of country, a pinch of folk, a sprinkle of rock, and a smidgeon of jazz! Last but not least, to add a little spice, how about some vaudeville cabaret? No, this is not a textbook recipe, but rather a mystical scribbling from an ancient scroll. Lindi is enigmatic and enchanting with a voice that can be cheeky and brassy or haunting and ghostly. Her music derives from the metaphysical in a sphere that warps time and defies orthodoxy. This madness is a pure passion that has never met the technicalities of music theory.” That’s how Canada’s music magazine Exclaim! described Lindi Ortega early in her career.

An amazing voice and one heck of a songwriter, Ortega knocked around for a decade before tasting any kind of real success on more than a local level. Often referred to as Toronto’s best kept secret, she released two albums, two EPs, and was the opening act on a number of tours headlined by well known acts before she finally received her first truly major label release. I’m hoping she is poised to take her career to another level any time now, so it is a great time to take a look at her work.

Ortega’s first large scale release was Little Red Boots, which along with her now signature little black dress has become her on stage uniform. Now the two songs from this album I’d include on a top ten list were actually first recorded on the Drifter EP, but in a much more simplified style with just Ortega on guitar and vocals. This time around she had a big time producer in Ron Lopata and an actual band. Little Lie is a fun, high spirited and rollicking sort of song where the singer justifies telling a lie to her guy because “Didn’t wanna tell you anything you didn’t wanna hear” but she does try and tell him if he bothers to look closer the truth will be clear. But it’s a fun sing along sort of song, regardless of the theme. The second song, All My Friends, isn’t usually the type of song you hear women working in the country genre (although not completely within) sing. The theme is easily overlooked though as it’s uptempo and deceiving, in somewhat way the previous song was. It’s something you could have imagined Johnny Cash singing. “Cigarettes and wine are both comrades of mine/together we will burn and we will drown/and I will sleep all night flirting with suicide/it’s just my friend the pill that puts me down.”

Her second album Cigarettes & Truckstops is equally strong, albeit perhaps slower and ethereal. The opening track, the title song of the album, is a slowly played out tale of a young woman reaching out to her guy to let him know that she is working her way towards California because she has decided, “So I guess I gotta tell ya that I’m comin out to meet you/That I really gotta see you one more time/I’d rather have you still beside me/Than have you always running through my mind/Oh look at California, I’m coming for my love/I’m comin for my lover’s heart tonight.” It’s the kind of message you wan to get from you girl.

On the other hand you really don’t want to hear her say Don’t Wanna Hear It. And if she does you certainly don’t want to hear, with a raunchy band angrily behind her, her telling you that you can get down on your knees and beg but it won’t change a thing because she “don’t need to hear another, sorry, sad, lame excuse.” Ouch.

On her third album, Tin Star, Ortega was brilliant start to finish. She could have been due a toppermost simply based on this album. While she had dealt early in her career with the trials and tribulations of being an indie artist on the road, she really had something to say about it on this album.

It starts with Hard As This, which disguises itself as a traditional break up sort of song, but it seems far more than that to me. The lead guitar seems to echo out of the past with a full, somewhat western, type of sound. And I just love the line, “All my love is wasted on a heartache in my chest.”

Gypsy Child is a great song about, well, being a gypsy child, who is wandering around singing songs and how great it is that her family supports and accepts who she is. Tin Star is as heartfelt a tune about what it is to be an entertainer hoping to break into the big time. “Oh you don’t know me/I’m a nobody/I sing on the strip/For a few pennies/I got a busted string/and a broken guitar/I’ve been singing for tips/down at the local bar.” I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes her signature song long after it stops being anywhere near factual.

She keeps the slow pace with Lived And Died Alone. Another love doesn’t work out for me sort of song. I don’t doubt for a second Lindi Ortega knows what she is doing up on that stage, especially in the small clubs she plays in now. When she stands up there in her little black dress, red boots, and well, isn’t the least bit hard on the eyes singing about how she can never find love, you can see a fair amount of guys in the crowd holding back from jumping up and down screaming “what about me, what about me”. It’s yet another great song from the album, albeit being sung “To all those who have lived and died alone.”

I Want You is sort of an ironic song title, because while it suggests it will be about one thing her greatest desire with the song is “I want you to want me”. A little different meaning there. But it is as much of a rocker as Ortega has recorded at this point and a real crowd pleaser. I’m guessing especially when she sings, “I can be bad. I can drive you mad/Be the girl that you won’t forget/I want you to want me.”

As I said earlier, the album Tin Star could suffice in itself for a toppermost. It’s just that good, so much so I really struggled what 6 to include from the album. You really need to go buy it if you enjoy the roots/american sort of sound.

That said the last song, on both my list and the album, is called Songs About. “I’ll sing a song, straight from the soul/Songs about loving and just letting go/Songs about falling, songs about flying/Songs about laughing, songs about crying/Songs about falling, songs about trying/Songs about loving, straight from the soul/’Cause that’s what I know.”

Yeah, I’ll buy that.


Lindi Ortega (Wikipedia)

Lindi Ortega biography (Apple Music)

Calvin Rydbom’s latest book is “The Akron Sound: The Heyday Of The Midwest’s Punk Capital”. He is the vice-president and archivist of the “Akron Sound” Museum and vice-president of freelance archiving firm Pursue Posterity. He has published a number of music-related articles and was elected to the Society of American Archivists steering committee on recorded sound before being promoted to website liaison. Calvin has written on many artists for this site including Gene Clark, Nanci Griffith, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Thelonious Monk.

TopperPost #269

1 Comment

  1. Jerry Tenenbaum
    May 6, 2014

    Best kept secrets: We keep a lot of secrets in Canada. Lindi Ortega is one and a good one. I really enjoy her work and am pleased to see her here. Some of them are secrets for a while and then ‘the word gets out’. Over the years: Levon and the Hawks; Rhinoceros (watch this site for a future entry if accepted); Kensington Market; Metric (no longer a secret); Stephen Fearing; Blackie and the Rodeo Kings; and many others that Canada will keep a secret until they burst onto the scene: among them, Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins. Canada continues to provide. For a small country, population wise, one could argue that Canada does fairly well.

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