Lindi Ortega’s forthcoming EP ‘Til The Goin’ Gets Gone’ – available worldwide March 17, 2017 – is a visitation of American pasts, pulled into the present and made personable through sparse, scaled down production and seeping soprano. It tells us the importance of voices in our history as well as the here-and-now; especially evocative considering the current political climate.
Recorded in East Nashville, Ortega embraces the intimacy of Country, whilst still maintaining an indie edge with this EP – three of her own tracks and a powerful, well-paced rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s classic ‘Waiting ‘Round To Die.’ Writing her own music as well as giving a country cover a whole new sensation is an impressive feat and something Ortega manages with a shimmering somberness.
Her music tells of hardship, but that she is doing it at all represents hope – after coming close to quitting music last year, with the last track ‘Final Bow’ reminiscent of a time when she thought she had only one song left. Think Loretta Lynn spliced with the emotional redolence of Lana Del Ray – this is country which speaks to the city, to contemporaries, to our inner selves.
‘Til The Goin Gets Gone’ opens the EP with finger-picked sensitivity, she speaks of the years “drivin me into the ground”, making a grave in a contemporary way. Her use of acoustics and echo prevent the reflection from feeling over-dramatic, with a vocal cadence a little like Duffy. It could be argued that the track is a little indulgent in terms of clichés – combining the old phrases “getting lost, getting found” and “sinking and swimming” – but alternately it is a clever way of looking at how society dictates standards, ideals, set phrases, especially to women.
Ortega also takes up important feminist discourse in ‘What a Girls Gotta Do’, I feel. Rather than submitting to the country convention of standardized women, she seems to parody the presentation of idealized American femininity. Her voice is interlaced with emotive irony as she suggests:“Come on baby here’s your big chance”, then sends up thrown-out phrases like “shake it for the boys”. Her vocals give depth and when accompanied by spiralling keys and chords as the track progresses, seem to capture a mood meant for reflection.
Hence the EP is well coordinated to enter the enigmatic next track ‘Waiting ‘Round to Die’. Putting a cover on a relatively short EP is a brave move but something I believe Ortega does well. Although the lyrics may initially seem dated, speaking of old American family scenarios, there is something darker in how the track has been transposed which allowed me to relate this to the uneasiness of modern living.
Bass notes of echo infuse the track with a melancholy which mingles with our own emotions, the use of strings is capable of moving the listener. A good cover after all shouldn’t just make the listener aware of the past, but move them in the present – and in this track, Ortega tells the story of a prisoner, but with a power to make us think deeper. The closing drum-beat reminds me a little of Chain Gang-esque rhythm which gives it extra gravity.
Closing the album is ‘Final Bow’ which, as it is missing the article of ‘The’, makes me wonder if this is deliberate, leaving us questioning whether this really is the definitive end? After all, what is clear in this is the ability for us to think beyond the confines of genre and country; making us consider ourselves, the contemporary.
It is a bold decision to carry the final track with a lead piano, and it is tinged with a kind of creepiness, telling that the speaker can “Close the curtain/shut the show down if I choose.” She unreels the underlying uneasiness of being the decider of one’s creative destiny and speaks a line I am sure many of us can relate to, “I get so tired of the rat race”. It is the vocal flourishes and bold instrumentation with scaled-down production which stop Ortega sounding out of touch. Yes, some of the lyrics may seem a little dated but I feel this is all part of her illustration that sound can occupy, revisit and revitalise old spaces – showing that we can learn from the past and need to – and are capable of bringing it together into something beautiful.
Lindi Ortega’s new EP ‘Till The Goin’ Gets Gone’ is set for release on 17th March.