Dublin’s Sugar Club sees Toronto singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega take the stage for a set of tunes that channel the classic country sounds of her adopted hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Support on the night is provided by Dublin’s own Laura Ann Brady. Autoharp in hand, her gently twisted songs set the tone for the evening. Possessed of a fine voice, with some crafty lyrics, Brady is one that we’ll most likely hear more of in 2014.
It’s Ortega we’re all here to see though. She’s left the band at home tonight, her only on-stage companion being guitarist Champagne James Robertson. For the most part, the songs hold up with the stripped back sound and the Sugar Club, with its vaguely decadent atmosphere, suits this music well. Ortega, all dressed in black, with bright red lipstick and boots, gives off the air of a country star of old.
The pair open with Tin Star, the title track of Ortega’s new release. Despite her diminutive size, Ortega has a powerful voice which – underpinned by some skilful guitar work on her Gibson acoustic – makes for a lively start to the show. She introduces All My Friends as a song about debauchery, and it surely is. Opening with some nice slide guitar from Robertson, it’s about some of those late, late nights we’ve probably all had at one point or another. Hard As This sees Robertson show off some more of his guitar skills – his playing stands out throughout the night.
The first of two covers of the night is The Eagles’ Desperado – a lonely sort of song; Ortega’s voice has just enough grit to it to make it seem real. Demons Don’t Get Me Down is another one that fits right into that classic country mould, a song of wanting more than what you’ve got – some whiskey and weed, in this case at least. Blue Bird strikes a happier note, straightforward and sweet, while High is just what it sounds like, a love-note to the joys of Mary-Jane. The Day You Die is a real nod to her influences, a song of heartbreak that wouldn’t sound out of place on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
Ortega comes back for the obligatory encore with Cigarettes & Truckstops, another love song to the myths of the American West, the sounds of Robertson’s Telecaster bringing a real touch of Americana to the sound. That guitar sound plays a big part in the closing song, the second cover of the evening. Ring Of Fire – made famous by that best known of country singers, Johnny Cash – is given a sparse makeover here.
Taking to the stage without the support of a full band is a risky proposition, and some of the songs could certainly have benefitted from a little of that support, but between Ortega’s smooth voice and the top-class guitar of James Robertson, they pull it off.