by Sheldon Birnie
Last week was a big one for new releases out here on the Hillbilly Highway, with new LPs from The Deep Dark Woods and Those Darlins dropping hot. This week brings two more beauty full lengths from roots stars on the rise.
The first is the third full length from Nashville-by-way-of-Toronto’s Lindi Ortega, who has been on a serious tear for the past few years straight. Opening for the likes of k.d. lang, Social Distortion, headlining tours with Hillbilly Highway favourites Dustin Bentall and Northcote, and wowing crowds on the festival circuit, there’s no slowing Ortega down these days.
I had the chance to chat with Lindi at the Folk Festival in July, and she was clearly excited to be bringing her new album, Tin Star, to audiences this fall. The tunes that make up this disc certainly reflect Ortega’s relocation to Music City and her near constant life on the road. Speaking with Ortega, it’s clear she’s an honest to goodness fan of country music and its history, while at the same time working to bring her own vision of what country music is today to as large an audience as she can win. If you haven’t made yourself familiar with her stuff yet, Tin Star provides ample opportunity to do so.
And boy howdy, was I excited yesterday when I opened up a package from Stony Plains Records to find a signed copy of the brand new Tim Hus record, Western Star. Named after the one major brand of transport truck Hus hasn’t sung about yet, Western Star is just what you’d expect from Hus at this stage of his career. He’s still singing the same old songs, representing from coast to coast to coast, but his lyrical edge is sharper than ever, and the arrangements are tight. This probably has something to do with his ten years on the road, the crazy talented line-up he brought in to record parts on the album, and having Harry Stinson behind the board.
And while those same old songs don’t stray too far from Hus’ brand of Stompin Tom inspired Canadiana, there are beauties a plenty here. “Master Caster” had me laughing, wishing I’d spent more time with a rod in the water. I’m sure Del Barber will get a kick out of that one, if he hasn’t heard it already. “Hardcore Apple Picker” reminded me of my time out in Kelowna, and seems like the sort of tune Joey Only should have written. But the pick of the litter, in my books, is “Church of Country Music.” Just a beauty of an ode to the late, great George Jones (RIP) and the reverence for country music that those of us out on the Highway feel deep in our bones. Again, this is a perfect introduction to Tim Hus and his brand of Canadiana if you somehow missed Hockeytown (which is an absolute gem). Pick it up today, and hope that you cross Hus soon out on the Highway. He’s about do for a Winnipeg run here soon…