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On her 1997 debut, Trailer Park, Beth Orton made a splash by merging elegant folk-pop and electronic beats. The album's success soon attracted well-known collaborators like Dr. John, Ben Harper, and Emmylou Harris, but though Orton followed pretty much the same template, the fussy arrangements on her next two records turned her into a middle-of-the-road coffee-shop chanteuse. Smartly, she breaks away from that sound on her new Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks), emphasizing the naked beauty of her tunes and her raw, vulnerable singing, even leaving the dry cracks in her upper register intact. Producer Jim O'Rourke recorded it in just two weeks, with a bare-bones lineup that included himself on bass and piano and drummer Tim Barnes. Though Orton's songs are almost exclusively about breakups, her poignant metaphors keep them interesting: the subject of her derision in the Fiona Apple-esque "Worms" gets savaged from the very first line ("Worms don't dance / They haven't got the balls"), and "Absinthe" is an elegant lament for neglected affections ("My love's a ball I threw to you / Once I was gone you caught it too"). Barnes injects the deceptively simple tunes with all sorts of indirect accents and rolling grooves, and the Tin Hat Trio's Rob Burger shades a handful of tracks with piano, accordion, and organ. Orton's band for this tour includes a couple of Chicagoans: bassist Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco, and guitarist Emmett Kelly. Willy Mason opens. Mon 4/3, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $20. All ages.

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