Lindi Ortega / Andrew Combs
723 Rigsbee Ave
Durham, NC, 27701
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
There's a sign on the outskirts of town.
A buzzard sits atop it. The grass brown and parched below. It's dusty, faded, chipped at the edges, graffiti filling the empty white spaces, a bullet hole or two visible in the large, black letters that read:
Welcome to Faded Gloryville. Leave your dreams behind.
In the eyes and imagination of acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega it's a place we've all been, we're all familiar with or will one day know all to well.
Some visit. Some stay. Some escape. Some leave only to return again.
And for Lindi, it was also the source of inspiration — in title and in spirit — for her stunning new collection of country-kissed songs that make up her fourth full-length release set to come out on new Last Gang Record imprint, The Grand Tour.
It is an album that is filled with the sights and sounds and souls of those who've found themselves in Faded Gloryville, brought to its saloons, flophouses and cheap motels by drink, by debt, by vanity, heartbreak, failure, fear or misfortune.
Her first glimpse of the place, oddly enough, was in another artistic vision, that of the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart, which depicts a fellow musician exiled in a similar metaphorical town, down-and-out, drunk and debasing himself and his talents for those who could care less.
"I had a moment where I thought, 'Could this be me? Could I wind up like this?' " says Lindi. "That was a very honest question to myself."
That fact, the idea that she would question that shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the subject matter of her past work, specifically 2013's Juno Award-nominated Tin Star, considering much of it was powered by Lindi's experiences as a young, struggling artist in the equally as fabled and dream-dashing place of Nashville, where she now makes her home.
Just as it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those familiar with her incredible gifts that the feisty, fiery and fierce force of nature had no intention of taking up permanent residency in Faded Gloryville.
It was a pitstop. She took what she needed, saw the sights, hung with the locals, and high-tailed it out of there, hitting the road to capture its essence in three very different recording sessions.
The first two were with producers familiar to her work, Dave Cobb who was behind the boards for Tin Star, and fellow Canadian castaway Colin Linden, who helped her realize her vision for 2012's Polaris Prize nominated Cigarettes & Truckstops.
The results of those, Lindi says, should be pleasing to those many fans who've discovered her over the years, fallen hard for her own unique take on the torch and twang of her country influences such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn that has taken her around the world to enthusiastic audiences everywhere.
The final session, though, was one that took her in a somewhat different direction, towards a more Muscle Shoals sound utilized by those that came before her such as Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke — artists she expresses an affinity and fondness for.
Helping her navigate the new terrain were John Paul White from The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner from the Alabama Shakes, who co-produced in their studio in the deep south what Lindi describes as three of the album's more "soulful tunes."
"I feel like country music, itself, is all encompassing. There are different facets of it," Lindi explains."And I love all of it, and I've always wanted to explore all sounds country-wise. I've explored bluegrass, I've explored outlaw country, I've explored classic country. And now I'm exploring this vibe. Maybe it isn't necessarily country but it's connected to the south. So I feel that it makes sense."
And despite the three different directions Lindi took in the recording process, together, the nine originals and a heartfelt cover of the Bee Gees' classic "To Love Somebody", do all make sense, delivering what is the singer-songwriter's most assured, varied and engaging release to date.
It features everything from barnburner songs and the good ol' foot-stomping, toe-tapping numbers to the ballads that Lindi has made her calling card, all delivered with an energy and emotional investment that makes them utterly her own.
And, of course, wrapped up in those fashionably tattered yet toney musical threads are the tales of those long-time denizens of Faded Gloryville, delivered with a remarkable amount of smarts, heart and humour.
"There ain't no stars in Faded Gloryville," she croons on the title cut. "We've chased our dreams into the ground/If disillusion has some hope to kill/Here nobody wears a crown."And here's where you'll find the downtrodden and forgotten, the sinners and saintless, the jaded and jaundiced.
There's Cheech & Chong-esque enabler couple in "Run Down Neighborhood", whose derelict dates are down to the local convenience store.
There's the victim of addiction in "Run Amuck", who learns the hard way that, "When you run with the Devil you burn everything you touch/Bridges and money and everyone you love."
And here, too, is the very Lindi-like subject of affection in the song "I Ain't That Girl", who warns her would-be suitor that his money, status and Mercedes convertible aren't going to get the job done: "Ain't gonna tell you any lies/I've got a thing for long-haired guys/You're too clean-cut with polished shoes/I like 'em rugged with tattoos."
These are just some of those that find themselves in that town where dreams are left behind and all but forgotten. They may be those we know. They may be us. They may one day be.
But lest you think that the album is one with no hope, an obituary for those who find themselves at the outskirts and on their way into a life from which there is no return, Lindi points to the opening song "Ashes", which speaks of rising, Phoenix-like, out of that heartbreak and despair and finding oneself, evolving into something more. Ultimately this story, her story, everyone's story can and should be one of redemption.
"I always look at it like in order to get to Paradise you have to travel through Faded Gloryville," she says.
Like a character in a dreary West Coast short story by Raymond Carver, Nashville songwriter Andrew Combs moves through a hazy modern world, trying to find the meaning in life on his sophomore album, All These Dreams. “I sometimes find myself wondering what the hell I am doing with my life and what it all amounts to,” Combs says, explaining the album’s opening track, “Rainy Day Song,” which sets the narrative tone for the album.
“Although I don’t know the answer to this, I believe it lies in the path I take, not the actual destination,” says Combs. “I can’t say whether I’m looking for a god, or love, or art, or all of the above, all I know is I am wading through some murky water trying to find the answer.”
While the album may adhere to this darker internal script, its musical inspiration comes from vintage 1970s production: California-tinged AM Gold; the Laurel Canyon tones of Jackson Browne and The Eagles; and Paul Simon’s Muscle Shoals-laced R&B funk.
And with its sweeping string arrangements and sophisticated charm, the album evokes other earlier eras, like 1960s Hollywood or Roy Orbison-era Nashville Sound. Listeners may also hear the faint glimmer of male vocalists like Jim Reeves, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, perhaps even Frank Sinatra.
All of it amounts to a huge step forward for the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who released his debut album, Worried Man, in 2012, which American Songwriter named one of the year’s best, while Southern Living praised Combs for being “well on his way to becoming a preeminent voice in his genre.”
For the new album, Combs worked with producers Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson — who recently co-produced Caitlin Rose’s The Stand-In and have worked with Justin Townes Earle — and recorded the album in Nashville with many of his longtime musical collaborators, including lead guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal steel guitarist Spencer Cullum Jr. (of the instrumental duo Steelism).
“I feel like this record has a much different thread that ties the songs together than my first album, Worried Man, which was more raw and bare-bones, in songwriting as well as production,” says Combs. “All These Dreams explores more complex arrangements, lyrics and musical tones.
With straight-talking narrators and glimpses of poetic realism, All These Dreams at times might recall the gritty Southern literature of writers like Larry Brown and Barry Hannah, both of whom Combs cites as influences. On “Pearl,” the songwriter celebrates the underbelly of society, while on “Suwannee County,” his narrator strikes up a mundane conversation with a Florida fisherman at a gas station, which leads to a deeper discussion about spirituality.
There’s plenty of dark humor here too. On “Strange Bird,” Combs sings about an elusive lover, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and uses a buoyant arrangement to explore some unusual musical effects, such as a whistling solo.
Combs has been identified with a new crop of Nashville-based songwriters, who have also looked back to the ’70s for songwriting inspiration. Combs is featured in the upcoming documentary Heartworn Highways Revisited, alongside Nashville-based songwriters like John McCauley, Jonny Fritz and Robert Ellis — as well as one of his heroes, Guy Clark.
While he acknowledges his debt to fellow Texans like Clark, Mickey Newbury and Townes Van Zandt, Combs is also moving in a new direction, carving out his own singular path as an artist. The 28-year-old songwriter is also quick to point out that though there is a similar sense of camaraderie in Nashville today, “The songs and writers were much better in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”
“I’m not saying there aren’t talented people in Nashville now, but I don’t think we pay near as much attention to the song as they did back then,” adds Combs. “Maybe it’s ’cause we’re too busy tweeting about our latest gig or wardrobe purchase.”
Ultimately, All These Dreams finds Combs in a league of his own, wholly focused on perfecting his own songwriting and storytelling, and delivering it all in a rich musical style that’s much more than the sum of its parts.
$12 advance/ $15 day of