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Review: Lindi Ortega, Cluny 2, Newcastle

The alluring Canadian Lindi Ortega charms a Newcastle crowd at the Cluny 2 as Simon Rushworth explains

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Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega
Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega

One half Irish and one half Mexican, Lindi Ortega has more than a vibrant background.

Her self-confessed quirkiness, coupled with her ear for an endearing alt-country tune, is all part of the charm where this alluring Canadian is concerned.

Now based in Nashville, and an occasional star of the hit US show of the same name, it’s clear the influence of country music’s heartland has permeated deep into the pint-sized singer-songwriter’s conscience.

Where 2011’s Little Red Boots was a case of Ortega dipping her toes into the genre’s often murky waters, latest release Tin Star is an artistic triumph steeped in authenticity.

Back on Tyneside for the first time in two years, the Toronto native had 90 minutes to make up for lost time. Little Red Boots and 2013’s Tin Star bookended the brilliant Cigarettes And Truckstops and all three albums featured prominently within an intimate and intriguing set.

Flanked by ‘Champagne’ James Robertson on guitar, Ortega’s trademark mix of husky mid-set chat and wailing, heartfelt vocals engrossed a Cluny 2 crowd three times as big as that gathered to witness her previous Newcastle show.

Despite the wealth of material at her disposal, the Juno-nominated artist still found time to unleash new track Ashes on her unsuspecting devotees – the ‘good relationship gone bad’ tale typically somber in its tone. Ortega does an impressive line in sad, sad songs but the uplifting Bluebird remains one of her finest compositions to date.

Delivered with raw emotion – and complemented by Robertson’s most striking work – the penultimate song of the main set served up a truly affecting highlight.

Thankfully, there was more to come. Just as tour manager Dave Danger started sticking up homemade posters promoting red vinyl for £15 (a tempting prospect for the middle-aged bearded audiophiles present) Ortega reappeared for a triumphant four-song encore.

The title track from Cigarettes And Truckstops stopped those still chattering in their tracks and the doleful Desperado would have brought a tear to the eye had it not been soaked in biting irony.

Ortega’s haunting cover of No Bold Villain, by fellow Canadians Timber Timbre, offered Robertson another golden opportunity to steal the show – which he almost did.

Yet this was all about the little singer in the little red boots with the unnaturally big voice. Ortega’s time hasn’t come just yet but when it does the world will finally wake up to one of the most compelling, captivating and – let’s face it - cutest talents on the country scene.

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