I'm going to track back to (I think) February 1999. I was in a not particularly happy long-distance relationship and flying to America for a visit. In those days we didn't have the myriad of on-demand audio and video options that we have now, and of course its a few years before the iPod came into being. So, I was limited to the audo and the video channels on the plane itself.
One of the audio channels had a show about the new Beth Orton LP, "Central Reservation" which was due out soon. I was eagerly looking forward to this LP having been a big fan of both "Trailer Park" and the more recent "Best Bit" EP. So I listened to this show again and again on that flight, listening to songs like "Sweetest Decline" and "Blood Red River" and Beth talking about working with Dr John, and Dr Robert, and Terry Callier. It was like getting a preview of the LP before it came out and I loved it.
I flew back in the same month, which meant the programmes hadn't changed, so I had the opportunity to listen to it again and again. By the time the LP was released I felt like I already knew it inside out. There's a mixture of melancholy and hope in there and it's probably exactly the right mix that I needed at that point.
The first two LPs have been re-released on vinyl for RSD. Trailer Park is still wonderful, but Central Reservation still clobbers me - to me its deeply evocative of the time and place where I first experienced it, and though it wasn't a tape, it was still, over headphones, a deeply solitary time. Listening to it again, I'm reminded of the beauty of these songs and although there's a gallery of guests accompanying Beth on the tracks it still feels cohesive. My favourite remains "Feel To Believe", which is purely Beth and her guitar but its overall a wonderful album. Recommended.