Lindi Ortega – Tin Star

Tin Star cover

Lindi Ortega – Tin Star

I can’t believe I only discovered the incredible Lindi Ortega at the start of this year. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I picked up her new album as soon as I heard about it. Tin Star is different than Cigarettes & Truckstops in a lot of ways. Where that last album incorporated a goth-tinged blues and lounge sound, this one is pure country. Also, Cigarettes usually sounded like a performance, while Tin Star seems like a view directly into Ortega’s soul. Possibly because of that, it feels like the younger work of a person who would grow up to sing Cigarettes. Don’t think that means this is worse, though. Tin Star is the rare gem that reminds us why country is considered timeless. The entire genre is justified by the way it produces things like this.

Ortega’s voice is clear and soulful, with just a touch of smokiness that she can call on when needed. Her band sounds like, and may be, a collection of Nashville’s better sessions players who are thrilled to be finally working on the kind of music that drew them into the business. The tracks include a few songs about love and loss, but the dominant theme is Ortega’s career and love of music. The title track is a sad (and hopefully mistaken) acceptance that she’ll never become successful, while “All These Cats” is the ass-kicking answer to that: Ortega adopts a rockabilly style and tells the haters that they’ll never stop her. “Gypsy Child” and “Songs About” are also about the way she could never take music out of her life, and she sounds very happy despite the sadness in the title track.

I unironically and unthinkingly love this album. Ortega’s beautiful voice and personal-but-polished style makes it seem wrong to examine this critically. Part of me does know that absent her style, most of the songs would be generic country standbys. But how could I subtract the artist’s unique style from my calculations? Besides, she does have a dark sensibility that makes her unique in Nashville. That only shows up once here, on “Lived and Died Alone”, but that song is a stunner. It’s a disarmingly beautiful tale of necrophilia as metaphor for a lonely, overly-empathetic life. It’s not off-putting or gimmicky at all, and it gives Tin Star the twist that protects it from any claim of being filled with “standard country songs”,

I also can’t bring myself to proclaim this a classic, because I hope to hear about more than just her love of music, and also songs like “Lived And Died Alone” show us how much more Ortega is capable of. Every track on Tin Star deserved to make the cut, but I still expect to see a day when she’s gone even beyond those. I may wish that I’d discovered Ortega years ago in her fully independent days, but I can at least be glad that I found her while she was still on the rise.

Grade: A-

 
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