“It’s in ILLINOIS?”
Anthony Easton: This is the best country song I have heard this year, might be the best I heard last year too. It’s so fucking lonely — and it’s about California, which is an underrated country music state, and features Wyoming, which has Cheyenne and Annie Proulx and all of that isolation and spectacle. It calls down Dolly in a natural way, like you would call down a patron saint. Her voice lopes like a coyote. It’s so restless, and no matter what the lyrics say, so profoundly unsettled.
Alfred Soto: Languor that rewards attention depends, paradoxically, on tension. How fervidly can an artist make the basking in desire and pain? In Ortega’s case, how fervidly can she make us believe that in 2013 we can still smoke at truck stops? Brushed drums — a popular signifier of languor — and full-throated projection held my attention up to a point; the track is still about a minute too long.
Rebecca A. Gowns: As a fan of folk music, singer-songwriters, and girls with guitars in general, this falls flat for me. Too sleepy and slightly too generic, like a yogurt commercial.
Patrick St. Michel: Wake me when we get there, OK?
Brad Shoup: “Me and Bobby McGee” is a frantic recording, which suited Janis’ general frame of mind as well as that of the narrator, who doesn’t really believe Kristofferson’s bromide about freedom. Ortega’s been through a similar situation, but she’s not leaving the knots undone. And so the track is languid, all the players moseying on back to California with high expectations. In the process, it sacrifices any claim to anthemhood (which makes sense for a song that takes “Islands in the Stream” as a touchstone text), preferring an artfully drawn-out sigh.
Jer Fairall: The Dolly name — (and lyric) — check suggests fond reverence, but the unease in her voice seems to be holding something back, and I wouldn’t be that surprising to hear her shredding her vocal chords over a seething punk rock manifesto some time in the future. Neither singer nor material are unworthy of each other, exactly, but I’m far more interested in what she’s hiding than in hearing her work her way competently around this completely pleasant, not at all challenging genre pastiche
Scott Mildenhall: There’s a big indoor market on North East Lincolnshire’s glittering Cleethorpes coast that’s known locally as the Sunday Market. Its proper name is Wonderland, presumably adopted in the days that title would have suggested some kind of faraway glamour. It’s poetic really; the place is dilapidated, and sees a lot less footfall than it used to, even despite sitting right at the end of the seafront, an entry to and exit from a seaside resort that also features a pier lying dormant after leaseholders committed to rejuvenating it pulled out after less than a year. Last month its owner managed to auction it off, with promises of “exciting times” to come, and the same fate is to befall the Sunday Market. The people who own that reckon it’d make a great site for indoor go-karting. It could be worse. The town’s Winter Gardens, once host to Queen, AC/DC and Elton John, was demolished a few years ago to make way for some flats. It’s been a makeshift car park ever since. All of this evokes an all too familiar feeling: that things are just petering out, right in front of your eyes. And that’s where it connects to “Cigarettes & Truckstops”. It also evokes that feeling, even if that’s not what it’s about. On top of that, it brings to mind one stalwart stall on the Sunday Market that sold and played music, specifically country dirges like this, which never seemed to have much of an audience at the end of the edge of England’s nowhere. I don’t think it’s there any more.
Katherine St Asaph: Fuck California, it’s making her boring. No, but actually I like this; Lindi’s voice is glassy and tremulous like Emmylou’s, and enough little details translate the country anachronism into real mundane life, the sort where you suspect these two lovebirds fell for one another on a college road trip, gracing the> butt-littered truck stop just for its restroom. Of course, the details are still fairly little.