Earlier this month, Beth Orton returned with her first album in six years, Sugaring Season. The folk/electronica sound is no longer the focal point – electronics only line one track on the album – and instead, the LP is a set of perfectly formed folk songs, rendered with deft musicality, the end result of the assembled group of session aces – including Marc Ribot on guitar, Sebastian Steinberg on bass and drummer Brian Blade – that make up Orton’s band. Rather than sticking in one mode, however, Orton places a fleeting piano-led waltz (‘See Through Blue’) that barely reaches the two-minute mark in the centre of the LP, and closes proceedings with ‘Mystery’, where her finger-picked guitar and sweetly-toned vocals build on an underlying drone.
The sonic imprint of Nick Drake and John Martyn lingers in the airy vocal melodies and jazzy inflections of songs like ‘Dawn Chorus’ and ‘Poison Tree’, two artists who, after much deliberation, made it into Orton’s Baker’s Dozen. At numerous points during our conversation, Orton outlines, and re-outlines, her ethos for choosing them, explaining: “I just picked these records because I wanted to talk about records that have directly affected my writing, I suppose, and how I approach what I do.” Was it easy cutting your choices down to 13? “It’s horrible! No-one should be made to do it!”
Grinning and bearing it, Orton did make her choices, and in time for her upcoming UK tour, beginning on November 25 at The Assembly in Leamington Spa – click on her picture below to begin scrolling through the albums.