Beth Orton Revisits the Trailer Park
In 1996, British pop was dominated by all manner of UK and U.S. boy groups, girl groups, and commercial hip-hop. The timing couldn't have been more inappropriate for the discovery of 25-year-old singer-songwriter Beth Orton, an artist with an intuitive blend of folk and jazz vocal sensibilities. England – and later America – slipped into a trance whenever Orton's hypnotic single "She Cries Your Name" spun across the airwaves. Her major market debut album, Trailer Park, gathered a quorum of true believers who honored the record with a trio of prestigious BRIT Award and Mercury Award nominations, including a BRIT win for "Best British Female."
A year later in '97, Orton scored another coup when her Best Bits EP enlisted the enigmatic folk-soul-jazz-blues charm of Chicago's legendary Terry Callier on two of its tracks. One of them, a remake of the mid-'60s Florida folk standard "Dolphins" (written by Coconut Grove's Fred Neil, of Midnight Cowboy's "Everybody's Talkin'" renown) sent Triple-A/Americana radio into a new fit of ecstasy. Beth Orton was given the keys to alt-folk city, and became an important influence on the West Coast neo-folk of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and others, while earning a strong following from such influential (and now departed) publications as No Depression and HARP.
For the first time since its original recording 13 years ago, TRAILER PARK: LEGACY EDITION presents a newly remastered version of the classic album that introduced "She Cries Your Name." In addition, a second CD collects 13 non-album tracks that were released between 1996 and '98 – UK single B-sides, a live cut, an instrumental, and rarities, including both Callier songs. The two-CD package will contain a booklet with new photographs, and liner notes written by journalist Miranda Sawyer. In anticipation of her new studio album arriving in 2009, this latest entry in the Legacy Edition series will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting March 10th through Arista/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
"Folk was the music that came most naturally to Beth, writing songs on her acoustic guitar," writes Sawyer in the package's essay. "She wanted to capture the purity of its traditional sound. Having grown up around British folk musicians, she often wondered why British folk was not revered in the same way as the roots music of America."
Her explorations into folk were underpinned by an eclectic array of sources, including the burgeoning electronica movement. Several of the tracks ("Tangent," "Don't Need A Reason," "Galaxy Of Emptiness") swirl with an octet of string players – violins, violas and cellos. Three of the tracks ("Touch Me With Your Love," "Tangent," "Galaxy Of Emptiness") were remixed by noted UK dance music producer Andrew Weatherall, known for his work with The Orb, New Order, and of course Primal Scream (their landmark Screamadelica album, and the Trainspotting movie soundtrack).
In the wake of Trailer Park's critical and commercial acceptance, and the success of "She Cries Your Name," "Touch Me With Your Love" was issued in early 1997 as the follow-up UK single, in several configurations. Among the several B-sides that appeared was an instrumental version of "Touch Me With Your Love" and a live version of "Galaxy Of Emptiness." TRAILER PARK: LEGACY EDITION gathers these and other impossible-to-find tracks on its second CD.
Orton writes virtually all the material that she performs, with only a few notable exceptions, including "Dolphins." Another conspicuous cover is her version of the Ronettes' "I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine." Sawyer writes: "This song (about devotional love lost) evoked her loss and grief at her mother's death a few years earlier. Hearing it gave expression to feelings that, at the time, Beth could only access through writing her own love songs. She ran home and learnt ['Sunshine'] there and then, driven to breathe her own experience into the song's tender sentiment, previously hidden beneath the Phil Spector production. She stripped the song back to its barest bones to reveal the vulnerability beneath."
Orton went back to the same wellspring of emotion for her version of Barry Mann's "I Love How You Love Me" (recorded by the Paris Sisters in 1961). Orton's version appeared on the soundtrack of the 1997 British rock and roll cult film Mojo, written and directed by playwright Jez Butterworth.
"Trailer Park," writes Sawyer, "is a collection of stories, a moment in time, a humble offering with far-reaching effects, a musical experiment gone right, a small jewel that glitters differently as you turn it in your hand. Even today, it's still open enough to let your own moods and desires take the songs where you want them to go... For Beth, writing and recording songs is the best feeling in the world. The equivalent of true love, she calls it. Time for us to fall in love all over again."
Orton has released three albums since Trailer Park: Central Reservation (Arista, 1999), Daybreaker (Astralwerks, 2002), The Other Side of Daybreak (2003) and Comfort of Strangers (2006). Her latest is expected this year.
TRAILER PARK: LEGACY EDITION by BETH ORTON (Arista/Legacy 88697 35722 2 1, originally issued September 1996, as Heavenly 17) CD One – Selections: 1. She Cries Your Name • 2. Tangent • 3. Don't Need A Reason • 4. Live As You Dream • 5. Sugar Boy • 6. Touch Me With Your Love • 7. Whenever • 8. How Far • 9. Someone's Daughter • 10. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine • 11. Galaxy Of Emptiness.
CD Two – Selections: 1. Safety (A) • 2. It's Not The Spotlight (A) • 3. Galaxy Of Emptiness (live at Shepherds Bush Empire, 26/11/1996) (B) • 4. Pedestal (B) • 5. Touch Me With Your Love (instrumental) (C) • 6. It's This I Am Find (D) • 7. Bullet (E) • 8. Best Bit (early version) (E) • 9. Best Bit (F) • 10. Skimming Stone (F) • 11. Dolphins (feat. Terry Callier) (F) • 12. Lean On Me (feat. Terry Callier) (F) • 13. I Love How You Love Me (G).
A – Tracks 1-2 from B-side "She Cries Your Name" single, 1996.
B – Tracks 3-4 from B-side "Touch Me With Your Love" single, January 1997.
C – Track 5 from B-side "Touch Me With Your Love" vinyl 10-inch, 1997.
D – Track 6 from B-side "Someone's Daughter," March 1997.
E – Tracks 7-8 from B-side "She Cries Your Name" (re-release), June 1997.
F – Tracks 9-12 from "Best Bit" EP, December 1997.
G – Track 13 from "Mojo" soundtrack album, July 1998.
Click here to read today's full Day in Rock report