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album review & giveaway! : beth orton, sugaring season

The first album in six years from ‘folk-tronica’ singer songwriter, Beth Orton, Sugaring Season emphasises the folk rather than the ‘tronica’ and is an exhibition of Orton’s precise and beautiful song writing.

Orton is a master of her craft and her 20+ years as a professional artist is clearly reflected in the emotional ballads of her latest collection.

The album opens with what is one of my favourite tracks of the year, Magpie, a hypnotic song with a gorgeous violin motif. The violin work on this album (supplied by Eyvind Kang) is something to be celebrated – it is used tastefully, melodically and incredibly emotively, especially on this track.

Orton uses a unique blend of stringed instruments, percussion and vocal layering to build tension in the first two songs and then release it on the third.

The middle tracks of the album place a greater focus on Orton’s lyrics and vocals. It almost feels as if the album was made in episodes with the first 3 songs, then the middle 4 and the final 3 serving as separate parts of the same being. Poison Tree is another album highlight with understated accompaniment to haunting, storyteller vocals – ‘I was angry with my friend, I told my wrath, my wrath did end’.

The most prominent impression I got from Sugaring Season was the quintessential British undertones, both in subject matter and feeling. It would be a perfect album to listen to in front of the fire with a nice cup of tea at the end of a long day.

An easy comparison to make for those unfamiliar with Orton is that of Laura Marling. While both singers do sound eerily alike at times, Orton, at 41 is old enough to be Marling’s mother and this maturity is reflected in her songwriting. The trials and tribulation of life, love and loss show in the song writing and a deep level of understanding that is not found in the works of those like Marling, is found here.

Mystery is the perfect closer for the album and brings a well constructed sense of completion to the album. This is a great example of how simple song writing augmented with subtle instrumentation can really make for a great song.

We have two copies of Beth Orton’s Sugaring Season on vinyl to give away to two lucky Lipsters! Email us with your address, name, and contact number by Nov 23 to go in the draw to win!


By Thomas Lane

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