Sugaring Season is the new Beth Orton album, it's her first studio album since the 2006 release of Comfort of Strangers. It's a brilliant album, still highlighting the beguiling mysterious soundscapes that she creates but with lighter shades that off set the darker moment beautifully. Like a lot of people I was really captivated by Trailer Park when it came out, the darkness of English folk mixed with elements of electronica that added to the haunted feeling of her music. But for some reason I didn't connect with her follow up releases, it often happens an artist captures you with one album but you move long before the release of the next one, attention spans are very short these days.
Magpie has that familiar haunted opening, soft guitar lines and the omnipresence of viola drifting and then striking between the verses. I love the hidden feeling of suspense in her lyrics, they feel like they have been drenched in the tradition of English literature,
I'm sitting here watching the world go by
I wonder do you ever question why,
Old Crow Old Crow
I'm sitting here wondering what you know
You've seem more of the day than I could dream.
Dawn Chorus has a laid back country feel to it, it sounds a little like the Band with some nice accordion and and those soft snare flourishes. Candles is optimistic against the dark background, offering up hope in the face of despair.
She'll blow them stars out just like candles
She'll conduct the clouds to move at certain angles
Won't let the struggle get you down, down, down
Don't let them horses pull you over ground.
Call Me The Breeze is the standout track, rich harmonic keyboard, sounding like Garth Hudson at his best, wild loping soundscapes with a funky shuffle very much like The Band, splitting the time in half to achieve that relaxed groove. Poison Tree allows Orton to open up her voice a little more against the backdrop of her acoustic guitar and the solid rhythm of the upright bass, it has more of a traditonal folk feel. See Through Blue is this delightfully warped waltz, it sounds a little mad but it's great, when it first starts off it sounds a little like something Van Morrison would have played on Astral Weeks.
Last Leaves of Autumn shows the fragile power of Orton's voice against sparse piano droplets, her voice is so delicate and pure, it's almost a hymn to the onset of winter as the leaves begin to fall and the light fades. Sugaring Season is one of those albums that just captivates you and grabs hold of you, this is a must get and should feature prominently in best of lists.