By Malcolm Jack Published on Wednesday 10 April 2013 01:13
BETH Orton has made a welcome return with her sixth album Sugaring Season, following a relatively quiet decade during which she married and started a family.
Beth Orton, Liquid Room, Edinburgh ***
It’s an album of such typically warm acoustic loveliness as seems to flow effortlessly from the tall, thin Norfolk singer-songwriter. But she came across as a slightly uneasy live performer here, who struggled vocally at times.
Initially brought to attention by collaborations with William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers, Orton’s brand of lush folktronica became such a post-clubbing fixture in the mid-1990s as to earn her the nickname “comedown queen”. These days the trippy drum beats and ambient sounds have been supplanted by rather more traditional-minded adornments. Pastoral opener Call Me The Breeze saw Orton trade harmonies with her guitarist husband, American folk musician Sam Amidon, who switched to fiddle for the Nick Drake-esque Poison Tree, which borrowed lyrics from a William Blake poem.
“We’re on a tight budget,” joked Orton self-deprecatingly – in one of few audible bits of banter, so softly was she spoken – while switching her own amp cables ahead of achingly pretty electric piano number Last Leaves of Autumn. Her best-known material, as if in defiance of some tediously insistent shouted requests, was saved until latterly. The beautiful Pass In Time was slightly undone by Orton’s struggle to reach high notes, but Central Reservation was pitch-perfect in every respect, and Stolen Car and Spotlight lit-up a delightful mostly solo encore.