A world without labels would be nice, but in order to communicate the relative merits of a record or performer, it's often necessary, at least in the vaguest sense, to define an album or artist in terms of the music it or she resembles. But when a songwriter like Beth Orton comes along, even the fairest generalizations don't do much good. Sure, she plays an acoustic guitar and sings like Sandy Denny, but does that make Orton a folk singer? A former vocalist for The Chemical Brothers, Orton also incorporates looped beats and electronics into her music, so does that make her a techno act? Central Reservation, Orton's second album, simplifies her already minimal music, so in order to get a bead on her, you must first separate her roles as performer and singer. Though many of the songs sound like trip-hop in the most obvious waythe beats are slow, the mood is downCentral Reservation differs only in studio execution from the like-minded works of Nick Drake and John Martyn. Further, because so many trip-hop exercises feature faceless vocalists, it's easy to lump Orton in with the rest of the bunch. But once again, Orton's clear warble is clearly aligned with the stately Anglo-Celtic traditionalism of the British post-folkies in Fairport Convention. In Orton's odd case, then, the music ultimately proves a red herring, as her songs would be just as strong a cappella. It's that voice that makes "Pass In Time," "Sweetest Decline," "Stars All Seem To Weep," and "Blood Red River" so stunning: Were the music far less subdued, her singing would ensure that the sentiment and sensitivity of her songs remain the same. Does Orton play folk music or electronica? She's just very, very good, and it should be left at that.