Pop review: Beth Orton

Slaughtered Lamb, London

"Is this all right for you?" asks Beth Orton midway through this intimate celebration of her pioneering album, Trailer Park. "It's fucking agony for me." Orton, looking elfin yet still a forthright presence, is struggling with a three-year spell of post-motherhood sleep deprivation - and a bout of vomiting caused by a bug. Then there's the problem of revisiting a record whose blend of acoustic guitar, strings and laid-back beats created the foundations of folktronica. "It's a bit like trying to climb back in your old skin," Orton says. "All a bit tight and wrong."

Released amid the bullish overindulgence of Britpop in 1996, Trailer Park had a startlingly new sound, yet was entrenched in tradition. Orton's music had a world-weary quality, sun-dappled yet doubt-ridden, her cracked vocals full of guileless honesty and wonder. Remastered, re-released and tonight stripped back to its acoustic origins, Trailer Park has lost none of its magic. She Cries Your Name still sounds like a lost Bobbie Gentry classic. Devoid of its simmering rhythm and bleeps, the world of hurt within Galaxy of Emptiness is even more devastating, while Whenever remains a breath of fresh air.

Orton, though, bites her bottom lip, expels long breaths between songs and frets about having an asthma attack, before admitting to nerves. "I'm not usually this neurotic, honestly," she says, although guitar and mandolin-playing cohort Ted Barnes's raised eyebrows suggest otherwise.

Justifiably concerned about hitting the high notes, Orton stumbles through the jaunty Live As You Dream, while the darkness of Tangent is weakened by her "missing register". "It went when I went eurghh!" she says. "Hopefully, it'll be back." Even if it's not, I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine proves that Orton has one of the most distinctive, tender voices in pop, and neither parenthood nor the passing years have withered her intuitive style and charm.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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