by Pat Moran
Embracing the directness of Johnny Cash with the gothic hues of Lee Hazlewood, Lindi Ortega takes her country so seriously that she relocated to Nashville from her native Toronto. The move paid off when an appearance on ABC's Nashville saw Ortega's commercial profile go through the roof. Still, the real reason she settled in Music City was to dip into the well that nurtured performers like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. That dedication grounds Ortega's songs in the blues roots and raw emotion that inspired Cash, Williams and Loretta Lynn. Shunning ironic distance, Ortega adopts a post-modern take on non-PC traditional country. While her high soprano evokes the purity of Dolly Parton, Ortega replaces Parton's optimism with the wary sophistication of Leonard Cohen and dark absurdity of Nick Cave. Her surreal shuffle "The Day You Die" may be a goof on the lengths people go to keep love alive, but it's underpinned with honest desperation. The haunting "Heaven Has No Vacancy" questions the disconnect between suicide and pious belief in the afterlife. With her trademark red boots, Ortega may look like a honky-tonk kitten, but the smoky mirror she holds up to trad country reflects the real deal. With Dustin Bentall & The Smokes. $10. Feb. 5, 9 p.m. The Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 704-376-3737.