“If I lose you; could you find me? Or would you walk right by me?”
– “Feel to Believe” by Beth Orton
All it took was an Instagram post to jog my memory to the fact that one of the seminal albums of my early adult years was released 20 years ago this week.
I was tipped off to the knowledge that Beth Orton’s “Central Reservation” was releasing in early 1999 through a Rolling Stone article previewing its projected breakout artists of that year. I knew Orton through her earlier work with The Chemical Brothers. Also, while I had only truly remembered “She Cries Your Name” off of her debut album “Trailer Park” (an LP I later grew to adore) and a few other tunes off her Japan-only release “SuperPinkyMandy,” I was excited to know what Orton was going to deliver. (Finding music legally in the late-90s Internet wasn’t exactly an easy task, especially on dial-up speeds).
Kind of expecting a rehash of the warm electronic/acoustic hybrid I had known her for, Orton’s “Central Reservation” was partially that, but also a very raw look into her abilities to write incredibly moving tunes.
During the time when I had the attention span/patience to listen to albums in their entirety, I’ve grown to love the placement of the next-to-last track. As a teenager, it almost felt like artists were trying to place their most impactful tracks in the penultimate spot.
Track 11 of 12 on “Central Reservation” topped the podium for me in 1999 and has sat there ever since.
“Feel to Believe” is just Orton, her voice and a guitar. It’s powerfully raw. It’s biting. You feel as if you know Elizabeth Caroline Orton as a lifelong friend through this song.
Here it is, live.