English singer-songwriter Beth Orton is one of the best-known practitioners of a subgenre in which folk songs are set to electronic beats — it’s a sound she employed to popular and powerful effect throughout the late ’90s and early ’00s, on hit albums such as Trailer Park, Central Reservation and Daybreaker. But these days, Orton has been increasingly willing to sweep aside digital accoutrements and just sit on a stool with an acoustic guitar, as this Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices makes plenty clear.
Performing well in advance of her new album’s release — the Tucker Martine-produced Sugaring Season, her sixth full-length, comes out Oct. 2 — Orton was fairly new to most of these songs herself. She said she’d only played the new “Dawn Chorus” a handful of times publicly before unveiling it at the Tiny Desk, while “Candles” and “Poison Tree” won’t penetrate the public consciousness until weeks if not months from now. But she made sure to close her warm, charming set on a comfortingly familiar note — appropriate for a singer who brought cupcakes to share with the crowd — as she dug out a spare, lovely rendition of 1999’s “Sweetest Decline,” from Central Reservation.
- “Dawn Chorus”
- “Poison Tree”
- “Sweetest Decline”
Producer: Stephen Thompson; Editor and Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Emily Bogle/NPR