Lindi Ortega and Sarah Mac: The Bowery, Sheffield

Lindi Ortega fits in perfectly with the Bowery’s vintage living room décor, to the point that I feel I’m watching a photo shoot. Two photographers are at the front, clicking away before she has even strummed her first chord, and in true pin-up style, she laps up the attention. And why wouldn’t she? This girl is chic, from her fascinator covered, dark eyes and ruby red lips, to her dark flowing hair, down to her matching red cowgirl boots. The Sheffield based support, Sarah Mac is just as striking in a lacy top, towering over her keyboard in high heels. Both are downright talented. Jealous? Moi?

Sarah Mac sets up swiftly and bursts into, ‘One More Kiss’ with flowing piano and her instantly lovable voice. You can’t help asking, ‘Have I heard this song before?’ This is by no means a bad thing. This beautifully blended pop song is familiar yet distinctive with edgier-than-your-average vocals. Something magical is happening here. Mac explains that she did sound check in flats and so takes off her gigantic heels to get closer to the keys. Now more comfortable in bare feet she continues with ‘Session’, a tune with a Beatles feel but takes none of the edge from her vocals, followed by a brilliant cover of Kings of Tomorrow’s ‘Finally’, displaying Mac’s eclectic musical taste. With twinkling piano and high notes, this cover is a feast of raw emotion. Next is the dramatic, ‘Pull’ sprinkled with classical, Beethoven felt piano followed by, ‘Fire’ at which point I realise, Mac’s soulful vocals are reminiscent of Paloma Faith’s, yet, this Sheffield gal’s style packs more of a punch. She finishes with ‘Everyone Knows’, an echoing, painful tale of love, betrayal and disbelief. Mac is a singer/songwriter with a difference.

Lindi Ortega, now living in Nashville, has been described as a cross between Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. Though this label proves true, it does not fully describe, just how beautiful and together, her performances are. ‘Angels’ gently eases us in, then for the gritty stuff. ‘This next song is about burying bodies in the backyard.’ she says with a sweet voice. Ortega is at her best when she performs her darker country songs. ‘Little Red Boots’, playfully threatens how we will remember her, whilst, the almost spooky ‘Jimmy Dean’ adopts the voice of James Dean’s ghost, repeating ‘Hey little boy don’t you know my name.’ ‘Little Lie’  is sassy, injected with Cash inspired guitar, followed by a ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ cover.

I’m only disappointed when Ortega switches things up with the sugary optimism of ‘Blue Bird’. As sadistic as it sounds, the dark and miserable are preferable. Though melancholic, ‘Dying of Another Broken’ is far more intriguing with its defeated lyrics and weary tone. ‘I’m No Elvis Presley’ is a fiery, rant, which is soon cooled down by, ‘a song about getting high’, an enticing lullaby, sang in hushed tones, immersed in lethargic guitar. Finally, ‘Black Fly’, reinforces her laid back country style. Ortega has a knack of bringing old school country and blues back in fashion. Time to go home and download some Johnny Cash.

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