Image © Zoe Records 2004
Image © Zoe Records 2004
(08 November 2004) Despite her Oscar nomination and celebrity as an actress, giving a major record contract to English star Minnie Driver must have been something of a risk, especially as the music itself is very far from the usual bland celebrity fare. With the assistance of producer and musical mentor Marc "Doc" Mauer she has delivered a pleasing debut, showcasing her pleasing voice and talented song writing. The album is entitled Everything I've Got In My Pocket (Zoe Records (USA), ZOE 1072 2004).
It is also interesting that, a few lyrical moments notwithstanding, this is an album steeped in Americana, ploughing a narrow furrow between the mellow country style of KD Lang and cool, languid pop with a strong suggestion of Brian Eno's shimmering atmospherics on U2's 80s albums. Almost all the drums are played with brushes, and most of the guitars are acoustic with a just hint of pedal steel. The keyboards are played with almost impossible amounts of sustain, each of the eleven songs drifting in and drifting away again on gentle sonic pulses.
The elegant title track is a typical example--gently melodious, and held together with shimmering atmospherics--while "Invisible Girl'' is as close at the album gets to pure pop. Its excellent chorus makes it an obvious single. "Fast As You Can" is almost pure country, while "Living on a Wire" moves back towards KD Lang-influenced pop, with some subtle electric guitar. It is back to traditional folk / country for "Home," while "Deep Water" is an ethereal ballad of which Nancy Merchant would be proud.
"So Well" is an opportunity for Minnie to use her voice a little more over a slightly more upbeat backing, while Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" takes an up-tempo song and slows it down with slightly uncomfortable results. "Down" successfully continues the laid back pop vibe, before the fragile "Yellow Eyes" showcases Minnie's own guitar playing and features some lovely harmonies. The delightfully charming and catchy "Ruby Adeline" completes the album.
Though the album has its faults, the sum of its gentle, illusive parts does not quite match up to the promise of individual songs, leaving the listener a little frustrated by a lack of substance. The production team were clearly hoping to present a consistent mood and have managed that with aplomb,
and while Minnie herself will turn few heads as the find of the decade, she has produced, nonetheless, an excellent debut that should justify her label's faith in her.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England