Home Read Classic Album Review: Beth Orton | Central Reservation

Classic Album Review: Beth Orton | Central Reservation

The British folktronica artist strikes out in even more bold new directions.

This came out in 1999 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


“I’m always walking down the escalator the up way,” confesses Beth Orton on her sophomore CD Central Reservation. Well, duh.

Anybody who heard her debut outing, 1997’s acclaimed breakthrough Trailer Park, knows full well Orton got where she is today by going in two directions at once — marrying artsy acoustic songcraft with trip-hop technology in a style some have dubbed folktronica. Still, even folks who’ve been eagerly following her unique path may have a little trouble keeping up with her on the bold and beautiful Central Reservation, which finds the British-born Beth striking out in even more bold new directions.

Using the swirling, murky synth-folk of Trailer Park as her starting point, Orton — joined at times by vibes, strings, Dr. John’s piano, Ben Harper’s guitar and Ben (Everything But The Girl) Watt’s production — ventures forth on a moody, contemplative journey through a haunted musical dreamscape. Along the way, she saunters through jazzy sections, areas of lush orchestral pop and even back to her roots — the realm of pure acoustic folk — before ending up where she began, with a drum-and-bass-based version of the title cut.

Thankfully, though, no matter where she roams, some landmarks remain familiar: Her soul-stirring warble of a voice, her delicately plucked acoustic guitar, her achingly poignant songwriting. As long as she doesn’t leave those things behind, Orton can close her eyes and wander anywhere her muse takes her — and we’ll all be sure to follow.