Minnie Driver: Seastories (Zoe/Rounder)

CD Review

Jul 25, 2007 at 2:06 pm

By a show of hands, how many people suspected that Minnie Driver's deliciously backhanded role as a small-town disc jockey in 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank was a small reflection of her own experience as a lifelong devoted musician? Anybody? Truth be told — her modest buzz on U.K. and indie circuits notwithstanding — we didn't see that one coming either. That is until her latest record, Seastories, hit the shelves and our ears perked up. We secretly hoped for joke-fodder (c'mon, she's the dreaded "Hollywood type") but ultimately arrived at a firm conclusion: The chick's got soul. In a musical age when splash qualifies as innovation and everyone seems to have forgotten how to smell a rat, the chick's got integrity, too. Only slightly less endearing than her simple, curious songwriting style — showcased on the full-bodied, softly suggestive "How to Be Good" — is her self-captained assessment of the actor-turned-musician debate: "It never fails to astonish me how many people don't want you to be able to do more than one thing creatively," she says in a press release. "I plan to carry on making music, movies, babies, dinner and stories until I drop." Undulating and provocative, Seastories as a whole sips from the same Mason jar as Aimee Mann, or perhaps a not-above-sipping-from-a-Mason-jar Natalie Merchant. The unlikely chanteuse shows somber stripes with "Beloved," a Folk ribbon fit to impress Patty Griffin herself. The effort lacks the obligatory spurts of irreverence we've come to expect from good-looking female singers, but Driver does dabble in her fair share of Rock thanks in part to collaborators Ryan Adams and Liz Phair. Never self-conscious or brusque, the whole package is the coincidental yet unmistakable evidence of a woman who, snug in her suspended reality, can take any direction from here that she pleases. (Hannah Roberts) Grade: B+