by Mitch Myers
Beth Orton is a talented young woman from England who has been making music at a breakneck pace for the last five years. Hot on the heels of her critically acclaimed American debut, Trailer Park, Orton presents us with a bittersweet collection of contemporary British folk-pop highlighting her evocative voice and a most pensive introspection. While Orton has made a name for herself singing with electronic artists including the Chemical Brothers and Madonna producer William Orbit, her own projects reflect a more acoustic-based sensibility. With help from accomplished musicians such as Ben Harper, Dr. John and Everything But the Girls Ben Watt, she has crafted an extremely compelling album that is a cut above the current crop of female singer-songwriters.
Framing her lilting voice with ornate folk-rock accouterment, Orton indulges in vague metaphysical musings in compositions including "Stars Seem to Weep," "Blood Red River" and "Sweetest Decline." On the albums centerpiece, "Pass in Time," Orton explores the contradictory experience of guilt and relief she felt following her mothers death. This duet with veteran jazz-folk singer Terry Callier displays Orton as an artist who is mature well beyond her years. On "Devils Song," she tackles the concepts of good and evil with the energy and enthusiasm of an insomniac philosopher. With an uptempo, electronic remix of the song "Central Reservation" closing this disc, Orton leaves her future open to myriad musical possibilities. In the meantime, we have this fine collection of sophisticated pop tunes to enjoy.