Minnie Driver

Ask Me to Dance

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Most music fans are wary of well-known actors who suddenly decide they can sing, and not without good reason, but on her first two albums, Minnie Driver showed there was some substance to her claim that she'd been singing for years before she broke through as an actress. 2004's Everything I've Got in My Pocket and 2007's Seastories confirmed Driver had a fine voice and knew what to do with it, as well as holding her own as a songwriter, penning nearly all the material on both albums herself. Driver changes things up just a bit on 2014's Ask Me to Dance, this time focusing on her skills as an interpreter as she performs a set of ten cover songs that have special meaning to her. If Driver doesn't entirely reinvent these songs, she certainly shapes them to her favored performing style, giving the songs a slow, sensuous reading that brings a smoky, late-night feel to these sessions. Sometimes Driver seriously misfires here, most notably on Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster (Jammin')," which sounds faintly ridiculous as an ominous Americana number stripped of its reggae rhythms, but she scores more often than she strikes out, especially on a slinky, jazzy take of "Fly Me to The Moon," a spare but insistent version of Paul Weller's "Wild Wood," and a cover of John Prine's "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" that fits the song's plain-spoken heartache very well. With Marc "Doc" Dauer producing the sessions and leading the band, Ask Me to Dance sounds stylish but down to earth, and the finished product suits Driver's personality very well. Minnie Driver probably wouldn't want to give up her well-paying day job for the more precarious income of a musician, but there are plenty of artists less gifted than her who have made it, and while Ask Me to Dance doesn't answer any questions about where she's headed as a songwriter, it certainly shows she's growing as a performer, and this is a fine, pleasurable set of songs.

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