Beth Orton
Trailer Park

4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Beth Orton gives me hope that the most meaningful music didn't end with the 70s. The gangly indie folk artist's 1996 solo debut, "Trailer Park," which mixed eletronica with introspective ballads that cut to the bone, has been re-released with a second CD that gathers up material released on EPs, B-sides, and soundtracks. This is one trailer park you'll want to visit time and time again.

Born in Norfolk, England, Orton entered music almost on a whim after meeting dance producer William Obit in a London night club. Obit and Orton formed Spill, recording a version of John Martyn's "Don't Wanna Know About Evil," which became the first track off of the duet's album, "SuperPinkyMandy." The one-off project, more influenced by Obit's muse than Orton's, was released only in Japan. She continued to work with Obit, co-writing and singing the track "Water From a Vine Leaf" on his 1993 album, "Strange Cargo 3." Orton then formed a band of her own, comprised of guitarist Ted Barnes, drummer Will Blanchard, keyboard player Lee Spencer, and double bassist Ali Friend. Her first proper release, "Trailer Park," with collaborative compositions by the trio of Orton/Barnes/Friend, blended samples and tri-hop beats together with acoustic guitars and passionate observations.

Orton's woeful delivery and downcast lyrics were influenced by early 70s folk casualty Nick Drake. Whereas Drake's depression ruled him, ultimately contributing to his premature demise, Orton used her personal disappointments to inspire her. "She Cries Your Name," commences with slippery, electronic strings and Orton's Drake-like chording. Orton's percussive guitar blends with Blanchard's rat-a-tat drumming and Spencer's sneaky bits of sonar-like synths updating Drake's look-into-my-soul sound.

"Tangent" is ominous, foggy electronica with a bomping double bass beat, tensioned-horror film strings and a marvelously defeated vocal by Orton. Blanchard's jazzy drumming provides a whipping and rolling backdrop to Keith Teniswood's ray gun synth strikes and assorted threatening violins and violas. (Oh my gawd, focused jazz drumming!)