FIONA Shepherd reviews Beth Orton as she tours her second album, Central Reservation
Star rating; * * *
The somewhat scatty Beth Orton says she is not used to the luxury of a guitar roadie, preferring to tune the strings herself – possibly her underused tech support came as part of the package when she was persuaded to tour the re-release of her second and most acclaimed album, Central Reservation – something else she felt the need to apologise for. Her fans, however, were happy to immerse in its calm, balmy sounds.
Once the vocalist of choice for The Chemical Brothers, Orton was teaming wistful folk songs with a light smattering of chillout electronica a decade before Ellie Goulding was a glint in her record company’s eye. But Orton’s music is not as faddy as that description might suggest. The subtly crafted singer-songwriter material from Central Reservation has aged gracefully.
The jazzy country infusion of Sweetest Decline was an early highlight with its warm acoustic guitar sound, mellow throb of double bass and elegant ambling piano. The only jarring element was Orton’s recurring tendency to bleat her lyrics and only half-form the words but this affectation was rectified on a handful of songs from her latest album Sugaring Season where her softer, slightly mysterious folky tone and her husband Sam Amidon’s fiddle playing allied to beguiling effect.
While Orton and band were never required to rock out, the fuller pop production of Shopping Trolley, driving rhythm and keyboards of Central Reservation and her breakthrough hit She Cries Your Name provided dynamic contrast.