Minnie Driver

Seastories (Zoe/Rounder)

You don't have to scroll very far down the lengthy list of actors who have tried to pass themselves off as singers — William Shatner and David Hasselhoff, anyone? — to dash expectations that any other thespian will ever fare better. Still, Minnie Driver proved a rare exception when she unveiled her debut album, Everything I've Got in My Pocket, in 2004, and she continues to prove her prowess with this impressive follow-up. Driver is gifted with an assured, seductive voice that's unobtrusive and yet beguiling, allowing her to infuse the material with a casual but pervasive resolve. Her gentle musings are blanketed in an amalgam of folk, jazz, and rootsy trappings, a sleepy Sunday-morning sort of ambiance that emphasizes intimacy and quiet contemplation. Consequently, the mood takes mostly subtle turns, lending "Mockingbird" a smoky nightclub vibe and "Lakewater Hair" and "London Skies" an autumnal feeling that evokes her native English environs. The set meanders at a leisurely pace, and while "Mary" ramps up the tempo, tunes like "Cold Dark River" and "Coming Back to Life" cast a soulful, sensual gaze. It all combines to create an irresistible allure, making for an album that's consistently captivating.

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