As portrayed by Minnie Driver in Grosse Pointe Blank, Debi Newberry is one of the iconic film DJs. The part fitted Driver like a glove, since she had been a budding singer and was on the verge of signing a deal with EMI when she was offered the female lead in the film Circle of Friends in the mid-Nineties. Her music career has therefore little of the method acting so prevalent when other thespians attempt the transition.
Six months pregnant and in need of an early night after an appearance on GMTV, she's on the stage of this bijou London venue at 8.45pm. Wearing a loose, off-the-shoulder black number, she starts with "Stars & Satellites", the opening track on Seastories, her second album, which came out in the US last year but is only getting a release over here this week.
Driver has quite a deep, alluring voice and a yearning delivery influenced by Chrissie Hynde and Tracey Thorn. "If love is the answer you seek, you're asking the wrong kind of questions," she repeats longingly over the acoustic guitars of Marc "Doc" Dauer, her producer and occasional co-writer, and Mark Noseworthy. Think Quiet Is the New Loud-meets-Americana and you'll get the idea. "Beloved" is even more languid. The smoky-voiced Driver is positively smouldering, even if we're not sure whom the secretive actress is singing about, or to, for that matter.
Her voice is warming up, becoming more seductive still, as Noseworthy twangs away on an electric guitar. A girl both parents can be proud of, she says she wrote "Mockingbird" about her mum and dedicates the moody "London Skies" to her dad. Her "happy-sad" cover of "Master Blaster (Jammin')" proves most appropriate on such a sweltering evening, with its "hotter than July" lyric, while her version of "Waterloo Sunset" wipes the floor with Cathy Dennis's inglorious Nineties attempt.
But it's the soulful, bluesy "Cold Dark River", the set's closer, which lingers in the memory. "Ruby Adeline", a lullaby she wrote for a friend, makes a heartfelt encore. Driver is not as much of a magpie as Lucinda Williams, but give her a few years and a couple more albums, and she could yet become as enthralling as the grande dame of Americana.Reuse content