10 years after her debut album, Toronto's Lindi Ortega seems ready to finally break through and gain the commercial attention she deserves. I stumbled upon her music on MySpace (remember MySpace?) three or four years ago and was instantly taken in by her stunning voice. This woman could sing the phone book and the crowd would be transfixed. I hate to make comparisons, but Ortega's pipes are a beautiful blend of Dolly Parton, Jeff Buckley and Emmylou Harris.
Aside from her mesmerizing voice, Ortega proves that she is one helluva songwriter with Little Red Boots. From start to finish, this album is pretty much flawless. The predominant feel is rootsy alt-country, with a bit of bluegrass, folk and blues thrown in for good measure. You can tell that Ortega's record collection includes plenty of old school country artists like Dolly, Waylon, Willie, Johnny and Merle. (It's sad that real country nowadays is referred to as "alt-country" while Taylor Swift and Shania Twain are "country." But I digress.)
Album opener "Little Lies" is an uptempo country stomper, complete with some killer stand up bass. "Blue Bird" is a fun, rollicking 2 minute bluegrass number with some impressive banjo picking throughout. "Angels" is a breezy, midtempo, rootsy tune that'll stick in your head for days, much like the rest of the album. "I'm No Elvis Presley" is a firecracker of a tune that is self-deprecating, yet manages to raise the middle finger to her detractors ("I'm no Elvis Presley, so who the hell are you?"). I'm pretty sure anyone who has stepped onstage can appreciate this song.
Ortega's 12 original tunes would make an incredible album by itself. However, she closes the album with an absolutely transcendent version of my favourite Bruce Springsteen song, "I'm On Fire." If your heart doesn't melt and the hairs on the back of your neck don't stand after hearing this version, then we can never be friends. This is hands down one of the finest recordings I've heard in years. Period. What a perfect closer to a pretty perfect album. This is easily one of the top 5 best albums of the year so far. And in a year that's seen releases by PJ Harvey, R.E.M., The Strokes, Steve Earle, etc, that's saying a LOT.
You can check out her video for "Angels" and a live version of "I'm On Fire" below.