POP& JAZZ

Beth Orton performs at Manchester University 1 Feb; Aberdeen Lemon Tree 4 Feb; Edinburgh La Belle Angele 3 Feb; Leicester Princess Charlotte 6 Feb
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If a record label marketing manager had tried to invent Beth Orton, such a venture would soon have been abandoned as too outlandish. A folk singer whose debut single is a John Martyn cover, who then ventures into hip club culture with Red Snapper, Primal Scream and Chemical Brothers collaborations? Nah, such a career can't be planned; no Svengali could work that level of magic.

By association with dance artists, the Norwich-born 27-year-old former actress had already come a long way quietly before the release of her debut album Winnebago (later renamed Trailer Park) last October. But there was no keeping a low profile after that - the first single from it "She Cries Your Name", was jaw-droppingly awesome. Beth's voice resonates with bona fide rootsy folkiness but carried a powerful hunger and wistfulness as well. The music, a swirl of exotic violins and flutes, with plucked guitar notes and shuffling drums, was funky but understated. Glorious. And the rest of the album had more than enough poised and majestic moments, too, with the right measures of ye olde folk dignity and post trip-hop rhythms. The best thing is that Beth makes the seemingly illogical, multi-genre concoctions sound natural and passionate on tracks like "Touch Me With Your Love" and "Don't Need A Reason".

Live, Beth probably needs a lot more time to develop. If her showing on Later With Jools Holland recently is anything to go by, her nervous warble needs to be under a little more control. The fact that so far she's balanced and defined her sound so carefully (rather than her influences defining her) shows she is probably capable of losing that lingering anxiety and becoming one of the more intriguing artists of the 1990s. No record label manager could touch her. Except maybe... Madonna at Maverick. Now there's a team.

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