It's been a long, long journey, but Beth Orton has finally finished her transformation from the queen of chill-out to traditional folk artist. To be honest, it wasn't really a huge stretch, as stripping away the beats and blips from those early songs left behind her gentle vocals, which drifted along effortlessly. Album number five, Sugaring Season, is her purest work yet, stripped right down to the bare essentials and, as a result, it fits perfectly on an English folk timeline that includes Sandy Denny, Pentangle and even Laura Marling. Orton's voice has never sounded more confident and songs like "Candles" and opener "Magpies" are mesmerising, with their lovely autumnal tones. The only misstep is "See Through Blue," with its faux cabaret piano, but it doesn't stick around long enough to do any real damage. After a few years in the wilderness, she's right back at the front of a scene she was always part of spiritually.
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