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Beth Orton - Daybreaker (Heavenly Records)

Hailing from Norfolk, England, but apparently longing for the dusty prairies of a tumbleweed-infested American southern state, Beth Orton demonstrates childlike innocence as she plays with the great American tradition of folk/country song-writing. You've gotta hand it to her. She's got guts. Music is up for grabs I suppose, but I can't help but be suspicious of someone appearing to be so desperate for an identification that's a world away. There's just no authenticity here. The presence an endorsement of Emmylou Harris does nothing to sway me. Beth ought to let Emmylou take the stage and sit back and watch how it's done.

Adopting a rustic, world-weary drawl which appears to be borrowed from Lucinda Williams (who is much better I might add), Beth weaves her way through an overly-average bunch of ditties, given plenty of beautifully recorded upright bass and brushed snare-drum to pigeon-hole and tart them up.

The album is nicely produced, with great work by William Orbit and Ben Watt from Everything But The Girl. Johnny Marr even appears on guitar for several tracks and co-wrote the single 'Concrete Sky'.

The interesting ingredient is the contribution of the Chemical Brothers, especially on the title track. This is one place where Beth gets it right and almost appears to have an artistic voice of her own. Definitely a tasty, potentially signature blend of the Chemicals' techno-pop and Beth's folk leanings. Perhaps they see her as a good guinea pig for experiment with cross-pollination. Or maybe they are merely being paid a lot.

Another highlight is 'This one's gonna bruise'. Co-written with North Carolina's Ryan Adams and standing head and shoulders above every other track, it single-handedly proves Beth a very capable tunesmith and thus worthy of more than fifteen minutes in the spotlight.

But there's no need to mention further song-titles, as it's all one big song. Perfect wallpaper if you're a tourist driving across the USA wanting to hear music that fits and be blissfully ignorant of an English person pretending to be an American.

Peter Kearns

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