Beth Orton's debut album, "Trailer Park," hit the U.S. last year with little or no fanfare. But it's eclectic blend of acoustic guitars and electronica-influenced beats soon caught the ears of critics everywhere, and by the end of the year it was showing up on everyone's best-of lists.
This EP is meant to keep the buzz alive while Orton puts the finishing touches on her follow-up record, due out this fall. It opens with two new tracks: "Best Bit," which shows Orton's potential to be a mainstream hit, and "Skimming Stone," which finds her again building a bridge between the intimacy of live instruments and the haunting, hypnotic rhythms of electronic music.
The next two songs are duets with singer Terry Callier: "Dolphins," a cover of the Fred Neill song, and "Lean On Me," one of Callier's own compositions (Orton has promised another duet with Callier, penned by her, on her upcoming album). Callier's voice is beautifully restrained, lending a richness and sincerity to Orton's own voice that makes her seem more relaxed and accessible. The closing cut, "Touch Me With Your Love," is a live rendition of a song from "Trailer Park" that shimmers with unexpected warmth from its energetic acoustic arrangement. Fans who liked "Trailer Park"; it builds on the ideas Orton introduced with that record and gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what's to come on her next work.
Those who haven't yet been introduced to Orton might consider picking this up as well; the songs are flat-out beautiful, showing a kinder, gentler Beth Orton without sacrificing any of her unique style.