Gig review by John Kennedy / Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

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Tara, currently with Ainsley Smith on electric guitar, opened with her Rock-Steady/Tango rhythmic ‘Fool For You’. Smith’s West Coast acid rock Fender minimalism riffing evidently demonstrating many a well spent evening rifling his parents’ vinyl collection. Tara concedes she doesn’t really do ‘happy’ songs and that’s absolutely fine because her tectonic-plate troubling vocals are much more attuned to jilted lovers’ Torch Blues with her cover of ‘Cigarettes & Gin’ proving the point. The self-penned ‘Alfie’ recalled both Janis Joplin and Elkie Brooks’ heart-break husky angst. As is so often the case – these days the day job has to come first. She reps for Pepsi. ‘I used to be a rock star – now I’m a pop star!’ Not quite the Beyonce $30 million deal though, is it? It makes you weep tears of rage that artists of Tara’s talent aren’t kicking these manufactured pretenders’ asses back where they belong as Butlins Redcoats.

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Welsh duo Zervas & Pepper – well, the clue’s in the name isn’t it? – Are steeped in all things contemporary 60/70s American alt.Rock/Folk. Their take on the likes of Eagles/Neil Young and James Taylor are seen through the wizened ‘seen it all’ eyes of a cigar-store Indian. Hitch-hiker drifters on the highway back from The Burning Man Festival their Hippy-chic innocence enhances the haunting minor-key melodies and chiming harmonics. Think of the romanticised, lyrical melancholic landscapes conjured by America’s ‘Horse With No Name’. They recently featured on Lauren Lavern’s show giving airplay to yet another of their extended themes on an imaginary Western – ‘Buffalo Crow’. Dig out some old Barclay James Harvest and sadly missed Midlands combo Magna Carta and imagine Harriet from The Sundays weaving her nightingale magic amongst them.

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‘Ruby-lipped, raven-haired beauty Lindi Ortega pulls on her bright red cowboy boots once again for a European jaunt..’ So froths the PR copy along with a red-booted photo of Ms Ortega giving the camera some leggy smolder in a ubiquitous US pick-up truck. Interesting, isn’t it, that you’ll not often find male artist’s opus predicated by their looks? Ah…One Direction… (Need to think this one through…)

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All the same, she certainly cuts a dash on stage with her booty cow-girl ‘little black dress’ motif and Greek goddess cascading coiffure abandon. And, quite how Tarantino hasn’t tuned his feral cat’s whiskers in to this phenomenal lady’s vocal wave-length is a mystery. Pickin’ n’ a strummin’ her big acoustic guitar with kick-sass virtuosity she’s accompanied by twang, whammy-bar, slide and reverb electric guitar so economic and astutely phrased you just wanted to weep tears of joy in to your momma’s blueberry pie.

Ortega celebrates her Country hero and heroines’ antecedence with bursting pride – you name them – they’re stepping up to the plate. She’d a special dedication for Johnny Cash with her cover of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ whilst her Folk/Spiritual ‘Angels’, to a finger-picking refrain, washed straight down from the mountain and baptised us in the river of redemption – oh Brother, you had to be there.

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Her 2012 album’s ‘Cigarettes & Truckstops’ eponymous track ought to have been gritty, grim and roadkill raw but she sang it as a bewitching, lonesome lament to a nuanced slide guitar refrain. Its musical notations redolent with received mythologised Cowboy Western iconography of freight-trains, Boot Hill tolling chapel-bells and ghost-riders’ long pale shadows rippling amongst the sandstone monoliths in Monument Valley.

By way of introducing her cover of ‘The House Of The Rising Son’ (think perhaps, more Jeff Buckley nuanced than the classic Animals’ version, older readers) she relates an incident where she kissed a baby alligator in New Orleans (snap decision, perhaps…) It was moody, broody and viscerally voodoo intoxicating. ‘If I Were A Bluebird’ chirped with fly-away Bluegrass innocent charm and ‘I Was Dreaming’ echoed references to her Canadian compatriots Mary Margaret O’Hara and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. A Nu/alt. Country girl’s worst nightmare that someone still hadn’t shot her two-timing husband’s flatulent dog might have inspired ‘Making Believe’ though she makes a throw-away quip that she sings it, ‘..like Tammy Wynette after a night on a bender.’ With retiring Pope Benedict being helicoptered away from the Vatican cocoon of alternative moral reality ‘Heaven Has No Vacancy’ was a vituperate, very personal, comment on the Holy See’s historical condemnation of suicide victims. The optimistic subtext being perhaps that, thank God, the next 70+ year old, celibate white man will bring a more enlightened doctrine and that wearing condoms actually does help prevent population overspill and the spread of AIDS. But, there’s fun in abundance with the ad hoc encores of ‘You’re gonna know me by my little boots & ruby red lips’ and, inevitably her solo rendition of The Man In Black’s ‘Ring Of Fire’. So now you know. Go out and get her – she’s just what you’ve been saving yourselves for.

One Response to “Lindi Ortega + Zervas & Pepper + Tara at the Hare & Hounds, King's Heath, Birmingham, UK – 27th February 2013”

  1. Wayne Fox Says:

    Nice work Ian :o)

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