Ortega’s music has a real, rustic feel to it. By balancing her full, rich voice with the twanginess of the guitars, her music sounds organic and natural, each part playing off of and enhancing the other. I would call her newest album “Cigarettes & Truckstops” classically country except for two things: Ortega’s soulful yet naturally twangy voice, and the fact that she’s originally from Canada.
Ortega shows a vast knowledge of and versatility between the various subgenres and nuances of country and folk music. The fast-paced “The Day You Die” makes you (or me, at least) want to get up and two-step, while “Demons Don’t Get Me Down” wouldn’t sound out of place in a 1920s saloon. By maintaining the same basic elements, Ortega is able to traverse a range of styles with both deftness and cohesion.
I preferred Ortega’s slower songs because I think they showcased her vocals more, letting her slightly nasally, deeply soulful voice take center stage. On “Lead Me On,” she sings with a hopeful melancholy that transforms into a bombastic confidence, all the while supported by an orchestra of guitars that’s both full of timbre and delicately buoyant. The closing track, “Every Mile of the Ride” is more straightforward indie, with both Ortega’s vocals and the melody becoming more ethereal and gentle, like you’re floating on the song like a river.
Ortega’s delightfully cheeky, clearly having fun with her talent and attitude. On the rockabilly anthem “Don’t Wanna Hear It,” she croons to “Go ahead and sing your sad little song. Before you finish the first verse, baby, I will be long gone.” Luckily for Ortega, she can successfully back up her audacity with an album full of warm, emotional tracks. “Cigarettes & Truckstops” is a solid album, harking back to more traditional styles of country and blues that Ortega manages to breathe, or rather sing, life into.