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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Pop

From Dance to Folk, Orton Crosses Over

June 02, 1997|SARA SCRIBNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

London-based singer-songwriter Beth Orton has collaborated on whirling tracks by British techno-heads Chemical Brothers, but she hardly looked like the dance-club maven on Friday when she played an intimate set at Largo.

Dressed all-American casual, Orton, 26, seemed instead like the girl-next-door--until she opened her mouth to sing. This genre-buster, who has blurred the nearly uncrossable boundaries between dance and folk, set out to prove that her songs can stand up by themselves without a lush electronic landscape. It worked.

Accompanied by Ted Barnes on acoustic guitar and bouzouki, Orton played a brief yet sweet sampling of songs from her debut album, "Trailer Park." Barely speaking to the crowd, she clearly did not want to distract from the music.

With a voice that combined dreamy detachment and deep earthiness, Orton wound her way around the plaintive "She Cries Your Name" and her tour de force, "Galaxy of Emptiness."

The highlight of the evening was a stunning rendition of Ronnie Spector's "I Wish I Never Saw the Sun Shine." It underscored Orton's ability to understate emotions to great effect, which explains this promising young singer's way with both lush trip-hop tracks and a sweet, lilting, skeletal folk.

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