Lindi Ortega is on a roll, quickly following 2011’s stellar “Little Red Boots” with an even better new “Cigarettes & Truckstops.” The few pitfalls of last year’s release — overstylized production and momentum woes — are not a problem this time for the Nashville-based Toronto native.
The Colin Linden-produced “Cigarettes & Truckstops” gives Ortega a pitch-perfect setting for her Dolly Parton-esque tremelo and lyrics about hardships. The sound is vintage country (or as it’s now called, “alt-country”), rootsy stuff tangled with blues and soul and aided by the likes of mandolin, upright bass and piano.
Ortega sweeps in with the surreal loneliness of the title track and then sets about painting a portrait of a hard-luck, self-destructive romantic.
Her downcast is fragile against the gentle cadence of “Lead Me On”: “I’m just spinning my wheels in this unfortunate ordeal ... You always lead me on,” and on the self-pitying, desolate Western “Heaven Has No Vacancy,” Ortega, “found myself passed out on the steps of the Pearly Gates.” By contrast, she conjures gritty soul elsewhere, raging in the crashing electricity of “Don’t Wanna Hear It” and careening around the bluesy licks of “Murder of Crows.
The escapist nature of these songs is underscored by her longings, foreboding and bleak in the eerie “High,” though more direct when she saucily opens “Demons Don’t Get Me Down” with, “Well I wish I had some whisky, and I wish I had some weed/On nights when I feel so alone, baby that’s just what I need.”
She flips the theme on the penultimate “Use Me” with, “Don’t use marijuana/Don’t use heroin/Don’t use cocaine/Don’t use your medicine/If you want to use something/I got what you need/If you want to get your fix/Darling, use me.”
If anyone is still resisting her temptations at that point, she’ll likely win them over with her finale, “Every Mile of the Ride,” an ethereal, stately waltz that proves an ideal showcase for her dreamy vocals.
And unlike cigarettes, there’s no harm in making a habit of Ortega.’
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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