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Beth Orton returns to Salt Lake with memories, new songs

Published October 11, 2012 12:03 pm

Folk artist • The English singer-songwriter, who flipped folk on its head during the electronic '90s, returns to stunning form.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In 1995, Beth Orton's voice was the toast of Britain's burgeoning electronic music scene. Her vocal tracks on The Chemical Brothers' first two albums, "Exit Planet Dust" and "Dig Your Own Hole," graced that duo's penultimate and final songs with a beguiling power that matched force and delicacy in equal parts.

In 1996, Orton announced her own signature folk-pop sound on the debut album "Trailer Park." The breakthrough track, "She Cries Your Name," with its luxurious chorus and liquid beat, made folk hip for that decade's rave crowd.

Today, more than 15 years later, Orton and her partner, Sam Amidon, are the parents of two. Orton admits that a family walk through New York City's Central Park isn't the ideal backdrop for a string of media phone interviews. But with her 5-year-old daughter about to get her face painted, the singer-songwriter can finally tackle a few questions in her busy schedule.

"Being a parent, that's not so rock 'n' roll, but I can't think of anything else that's so deeply affected how I think and live at the moment," Orton said. "Also, it's eradicated all my memory. That's that, I suppose."

But she concedes her new music offers the chance to start fresh. Her 2006 album, "Comfort of Strangers," showcased songs of austere beauty, steeped in the production values of Jim O'Rourke, well-known for his work with Wilco and Sonic Youth.

Her new album, "Sugaring Season," starts off just as stark as its predecessor with the haunting "Magpie" and its lamenting verse of "what a lie looks like." The album proceeds in a kaleidoscope of styles, from airy folk backed by lush strings ("Dawn Chorus") to blues-infused balladry ("Something More Beautiful"), all with her inimitable voice, plus the kind of sure-fire song structure that made Bruce Springsteen a fan years ago.

"When I write it comes from many, many different places," Orton said into the phone, while narrating how her daughter's face was decorated with the image of a butterfly. "There are stories we tell about ourselves and others, and how they sometimes block us. You can be imprisoned by your own story. ["Magpie"] is a song built around determination and strength — taking a position and being strong."

Orton played the song live to a hushed studio crowd in August on "Late Night With David Letterman," and in the YouTube video her delivery was quietly powerful. Now she's taking the album on the road, with a Saturday date in Salt Lake City, a concert setting that brings back fond memories.

"Everyone said it's really boring, with all these Mormons," Orton recalls. "Then you get there and everyone's bang-up for a party. Then you ask, 'How did that happen?' "

bfulton@sltrib.com

Beth Orton

When • Saturday, Oct. 13, doors open 8 p.m., show starts 9 p.m.

Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City

Info • $25. Call 1-800-501-2885 or visit http://www.thestateroom.com.