Tag Archives: Beth Orton

Beth Orton readies for U.S. tour and her first new album in six years

September is way early for sugaring season. The sap in sugar maples is at its best for just four to eight weeks in the spring.

But don’t tell that to Beth Orton. The beautiful, stylish folk-pop singer will be back with Sugaring Season, her first album in six years — supported by a U.S. tour — this fall.

Here’s the first video, for a song called “Something More Beautiful”:

During the six years since her last album, Comfort of Strangers in 2006 (the year  daughter Nancy was born), the U.K.-born Beth has kept a somewhat low profile.

Sam Amidon and Beth Orton at Rockwood Music Hall in December 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

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Bachelorette playing an intimate show in Brooklyn before hitting the road with The Magnetic Fields

Annabel Alpers of Bachelorette

One-woman act makes dreamy, psychedelia-tinged pop

There’s something about Bachelorette, the nom de rock of New Zealander Annabel Alpers, that’s immediately appealing. Our very first impression of her is that she’s a self-directed Beth Orton who charts her own course without being at the mercy of producers and DJs.

If your first exposure to this Drag City recording artist’s dreamy, pyschedelic girl-group sound is via her most recent recordings, you might not agree. But check out this video, recording in someone’s living room, on the Australian music blog Polaroids of Androids, and you’re more likely to understand.

She’s not as folkie as Beth Orton, but she has a dreamy, somewhat fragile voice and a knack for lovely melody that evokes an Orton for a new generation, one who knows how to loop and manipulate sound live.

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Sam Amidon and friends at Rockwood Music Hall

Banjo and guitar onstage before Sam Amidon's set at Rockwood Music Hall.

The first clue that Sam Amidon wasn't really going to be performing banjo only at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on Wednesday. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

UPDATE: New photos added!

Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

As predicted, Sam Amidon‘s solo banjo show at Rockwood Music Hall on Wednesday night was neither solo nor banjo only. But we’re not complaining. The multitalented Amidon took to Rockwood’s Stage 2 along with a banjo, guitar, fiddle, baby grand piano and a handful of mics.

Sam Amidon at Rockwood Music Hall.

He treated the solid crowd to about 70 minutes of his lovely, mournful folksongs. Just a few numbers into his set, Sam was joined by longtime collaborator Thomas Bartlett, the pianist and singer better known as Doveman.

Then, maybe 15 or 20 minutes into the show, Sam started looking for another guest. “Paul, do you think Beth went to the wrong Rockwood? I told her 2, but I didn’t tell her there was 2.” The man he addressed as Paul got up from his stageside table briefly and came back with the lady in question — Beth Orton, his collaborator of the last year or two and, by appearances, his partner in life. (Sam’s loving looks toward Beth and the tiny baby she carried with her were hard to interpret as anything other than paternal!)

It didn’t take long for Sam to drag Beth onstage with him for a couple of numbers, too.

Sam Amidon and Beth Orton at Rockwood Music Hall.

While this show broke no new ground, it was a great, thoughtful way to move toward the end of 2011. Thanks, Sam, Thomas and Beth!

Tonight’s the night: Sam Amidon solo banjo show at Rockwood Music Hall

Sam Amidon at the Mercury Lounge, New York City.

Sam Amidon on banjo at the Mercury Lounge in New York City last year. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

If you’re in the mood for some great banjo music rooted in old-timey tradition but presented with a very modern flair, head to Rockwood Music Hall at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 28) to catch Vermonter Sam Amidon in a solo show.

Here’s how he describes the show:

End Of Year Contemplation through Banjosong

While I cannot even dare hope to match the fine calibration of Kirsten Dunst’s recent acting performances (most notably Marie Antoinette, Wimbledon, and Melancholia), I do wish that as 2011 draws to a close we can sing a few murder ballads and old love songs together and maybe it will snow.

Amidon is  an ace on the banjo, and delivers murder ballads and other traditional numbers in creative and compelling ways. He’s a bit of a deadpan performer, but there’s humor beneath the surface, too.

And even though this is billed as a solo banjo show (probably a good thing, because Rockwood’s stages aren’t particularly suited to bands of any size), Sam has lots of friends in New York. So you can never be sure who might drop in to join him or just to check out his set.

His talented circle of friends includes Beth Orton, Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett, violist Nadia Sirota and composer/pianist Nico Muhly,  to name just a few.

Even if none of his pals show up, chances are you’ll wind up feeling like a friend by the end of his set.

$15. Doors at  7 p.m. Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen Street, Manhattan. (212) 477-4155

Doveman delivers the best show of the year so far

May edition of The Burgundy Stain Session featured Rufus Wainwright and The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)

Doveman opening his latest edition of The Burgundy Stain Sessions at (Le) Poisson Rouge. (Photos copyright 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

I’m not sure what it is about Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, that makes him so brilliant.

Like many of you, I first discovered him when he was the man behind Salon‘s late, lamented Daily Download feature. At that point, I had no idea who he was, but enjoyed his tight writing about music and really enjoyed his taste and his ability to spotlight tunes that I might have missed and would have lived to regret.

Rufus Wainwright.

But soon he gave that up and turned to his real love, making music. Those who were paying attention soon discovered that Thomas is a very talented singer-songwriter in his own right with his beautiful, fragile style that he calls “insomnia pop.” He’s made some beautiful albums under his nom de stage.

But Thomas is probably more familiar to audiences as the guy will lots and lots of amazingly talented musical friends.

Rob Moose, Doveman, Rufus Wainwright and Brad Albetta.

He’s been presenting The Burgundy Stain Sessions (the next edition is June 24) shows on a more or less monthly basis lately at (Le) Poisson Rouge. The format is pretty straightforward. He gets  the room set up in the round, invites some of his talented friends, does a little rehearsing and puts on a show. It’s the kind of event where just about anything can happen.

The sessions we’ve see have been beautiful, sloppy things. And we don’t mean sloppy in a bad way. No, we mean sloppy in a warm, wonderful surprise-wet-kiss way.

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Beth Orton in the spotlight at The Bell House

Beth Orton charms at The Bell House on Monday night. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Beth Orton is always charming and has a brilliant way with songs. She brings new life to the tunes she resurrects and covers, and has a unique sensibility on her new numbers as well.

At The Bell House in Brooklyn on Monday night, Beth pulled off a strong performance despite battling the remnants of what she described as walking pneumonia. Despite her vocal challenges, Beth’s understated vocals reminded the audience of her amazing ability as a song stylist.

As a performer, Beth comes off as a perfectionist and a bit awkward at the same time. She started a couple of songs over because she wasn’t satisfied with the way they were going.

Early on in her set, Beth deadpanned: “Hi, I’m shy.”

Sorry to disagree, Beth, but no, you’re anything but shy.

It feels like Beth rarely tours here. This visit one was tiny — one show in Los Angeles, at Largo, and two in New York, the first on Sunday night at Manhattan’s City Winery. But she did five shows in NYC less than a year ago. As I recall, she was getting over an illness that time, too.

This mini-tour took advantage of a budding partnership between Beth and her opener, Sam Amidon. Sam is a Vermont-born singer who has come to specialize in quirky interpretations of traditional American folk songs. Sam’s spare, airy, almost stumbling version of O Death is one of my favorite takes on the tune. He and keyboard player Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett worked together in the opening set, with a bit of help from Sam’s brother, Stefan. Beth joined them for a bit, too. Sam and Thomas returned the favor during Beth’s set.

A full set list and some of my photos also made it onto Beth’s official fan site. Thanks to the great webmaster, Tim, for that!

More photos of Beth, Sam and Thomas after the jump.

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