Live Concert Photography: Lindi Ortega with Hugh Masterson at Mercury Lounge 4/26/18
Lindi Ortega is a Toronto, Ontario, Canada-born, Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based country singer/songwriter, who spent close to a decade as an independent artist in Toronto’s music scene, releasing two full-length albums and an EP, developing a reputation for a vocal style and sound that has been described as a blend of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. Adding to a growing profile, Ortega toured extensively as a backup singer for The Killers‘ Brandon Flowers as he supported his solo debut album with stops in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico and included live television performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Later . . . with Jools Holland and at Abbey Road Studios, as well as major festival stops including Coachella, T in the Park and Oxegen. Additionally, Ortega’s 2012 album Little Red Boots was both commercially and critically successful as the album was nominated for two Juno Awards — New Artist of the Year and Roots & Traditional Album: Solo; and the album was a long listed nominee for that year’s Polaris Music Prize. 2013’s Cigarettes & Truckstops was long listed for a Polaris Music Prize, and 2014’s Tin Star was nominated for three Canadian Country Music Association Awards — Female Artist of the year, Roots Artist of the Year and Album Design of the Year.
Late last year, Ortega left Last Gang, her management company and label and since then has released the Til the Goin’ Gets Gone EP and her latest full-length Liberty, which was released earlier this year through her own label Shadowbox Music. Interestingly, Liberty may be among Ortega’s most personal albums to date, as the album thematically and conceptually is centered around the story of a central character, who sheds the darkness of her past and emerges into the light. And throughout the entire album, some of Ortega’s experiences inform the album. “I think the most important thing for me was that I ended on a very positive note because I’ve had so many people tell me that my songs helped them through really hard times in their life,” Ortega says in press notes. “That struck a chord for me, because just like everybody else, I have had hard times in my life, and continue to have pockets of difficult moments here and there. If I can provide some sort of solace with my music, then that gives me every reason to make music. I wanted this record to be all about helping people through the darkness.”
Sonically speaking, the album, which was recorded at Nashville‘s Battle Tapes Studio found Ortega along with producer Skylar Wilson scaling back the boot-stomping, throwback country sound and approach she has received attention for and crafting a sound that’s partially inspired by renowned and Oscar Award-winning composer Ennio Morricone and was specifically meant to reflect her own Mexican-Irish heritage.
Now, if you’ve been following me through my various social media accounts, you’re likely aware of the fact that things are always insanely busy in my world as I manage this site with a rather demanding full-time job — but back in April, I caught the award-winning Canadian born singer/songwriter at the Mercury Lounge for an early show that featured the Butternut, WI-born, Nashville based singer/songwriter Hugh Masterson. Check out photos from the show below.
Opening the night was Hugh Masterson, a Butternut, WI-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter. As Masterson explains in press notes, he lived a very rural, tiny town life — the population of Butternut as of 2013 was 372. There were no businesses, really, besides the gas station, a bakery, bars and taverns,” Masterson recalls. “The bar was the meeting place. The parents would take the kids there so people could socialize and listen to whatever music was playing on the jukebox.” Among some of the favorites constantly played on the jukebox were The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams and The Band, which was a constant in the Masterson home. Initially starting his music career as a touring bassist, who’s primary touring gig broke up, Masterson relocated to Milwaukee, where he started to focus on his own songwriting and fronting his own band, Hugh Bob and The Hustle. And after releasing a full-length album that began to receive some attention in country music circles, Masterson had decided that relocating to Nashville to make a better opportunity for him and his band was a necessary career move; however, unbeknownst to him at the time, while he had planned to move, the rest of his band decided to stay put. “I had planned on moving to make a better opportunity for all of us,” Masterson says. “I just assumed everyone else was going to come with me… that was the plan. Then I got here and no one else showed up. Life changed.” With the inevitable breakup of Hugh Bob and The Hustle, Masterson began to focus on writing and recording as a solo artist; in fact, his debut EP Lost + Found, which was co-produced by Masterson and Bill Skibbe, who has engineered albums for The Black Keys, The Dead Weather, The Kills and others was recorded at Benton Harbor, Michigan’s Key Club Recording Co. finds Masterson playing a twangy, pedal-steel based Southern rock but with a very Midwestern sensibility. Thematically, the album is inspired by his own experiences of loss and life’s sea changes while gaining some self-awareness and wisdom in the process; but through a rather self-deprecating fashion. “I use songwriting as therapy,” the Butternut-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter says. “I think other people will relate to these songs. Finding happiness daily is not an easy thing.” In fact, the EP’s first single and opening track features Masterson candidly discussing his mugging and assault in Milwaukee, that resulted in head injuries and a jaw broken in two different places among many other things. As a solo artist, Masterson has toured with The Lone Bellow, Margo Price, Nikki Lane, Anderson East and others, and he’s received attention from the Americana Music Association, CMT, KRCW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, Rolling Stone, NPR’s World Cafe and SXSW. He’s currently working on a full-length album that he hopes to release in the near future.