It took me about six times to suffer my way through the entirety of Lindi Ortega’s new release, Cigarettes & Truckstops. That probably has more to do with the fact that I was expecting an entirely different record than the one that I ultimately ended up listening to. I remember hearing Lindi back in the early 2000s when she was doing a little gig called “Girls With Guitars” hosted by Linda M. She had such fire and passion in her raspy vocal delivery that every time it came around to her, the audience was silent and mesmerized. Unfortunately, much like Martha Wainwright, that same intensity did not translate into any of her recordings. You may not know it from looking at her website, but Lindi tried to be a pop star before gaining traction in the country oeuvre, and ultimately sticking with that direction. The problem? Country, at least the way Lindi does it, is incredibly lackluster and bland. There is nothing that resembles the quirky nature of older tracks like “Sweet Jezebel”. The reason? Because Lindi wants you to completely forget her pop-driven early days that resembled intricate and involved artists like Rufus Wainwright or Sarah Slean, and instead think of her honky tonk country-debut, Little Red Boots, as her authentic musical beginnings.
And now, with her follow-up country effort Cigarettes & Truckstops the fun tin pan alley of Boots is gone, replaced by practically insufferable banality and sheer boredom. The album is so incredibly slow paced and uninvolved and everything moves at a snail’s pace that even when livelier tracks like “The Day You Die” and “Don’t Want to Hear It” begin, they are immediately overshadowed by the MOR production and songwriting of the rest of the album. Essentially, all the fiery potential Lindi once had as a truly inspired singer/songwriter has been pushed aside and compacted so she can make music that will actually make her money. And though you can’t entirely blame an indie artist for really trying to make a living doing something they love (especially considering the rough terrain that Indie artists have to suffer through) you can be disappointed when they make choices that feel so inauthentic to what they once were. Unlike artists like Michelle Branch who always had that country twang in the back of their forced pop-efforts, Cigarettes & Truckstops sounds like Lindi would rather be singing anything else. It is ultimately a country-by-numbers affair with so little driving it.