Lindi Ortega followed up her impressive label debut with a brilliant 10-song collection. The bold statement may appear hyperbolic, especially when discussing a relatively new artist, but when her debut garnered comparisons to the late Johnny Cash and legendary country artist Dolly Parton, it stands as accurate.
"Cigarettes and Truckstops" is a darker album than "Little Red Boots," trading the poppier element of her early songs for a gritty blues infused sound. Her relocation from Toronto to Nashville may have something to do with the change in sound, but whatever the reason, it is a welcome one. Ortega's haunting voice is occasionally reminiscent of Neko Case, but her music owes more to the roots of country than folk music.
The album starts off with the melancholy title track, but picks up with the rockabilly rhythms of The Day You Die. Album highlight Murder of Crows contrasts a Dobro-fueled murder ballad with Ortega's evocative voice, creating a dark tale Cormac McCarthy would be proud of. Heaven Has No Vacancy reiterates past comparisons, sounding like a warped blend of Ghost Riders in the Sky and Jolene. There are a few quiet songs, including Every Mile of the Ride, which is where the Case comparison is most obvious, but for the most part, the half hour passes quickly with high tempo country songs about love, loss, murder and drugs.
Ortega has hit her stride on this album, a welcome addition to her discography. Ortega, who has toured with punkers and played folk festivals, effortlessly shuns labels. Her songs can equally appeal to young greasers, their Pistol Annies worshipping older sisters and their LP spinning grandmothers.