First, he snared gun producer Joe Henry, who brought in top vocalists and instrumentalists (including guitarist Marc Ribot, percussionist Jay Bellerose and horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint). Laurie chose personal favourites, ranging from St James’ Infirmary (featuring Laurie’s piano) and Buddy Bolden’s Blues to gospel standards The Whale Has Swallowed Me and a lusty Battle Of Jericho.
His take on Swanee River is a particular delight, segueing into a rollicking, barrelhouse piano boogie. Jones stars on Baby, Please Make A Change, backed by Thomas, who moves to centre stage on ‘John Henry’. Dr John — a huge influence on Laurie’s piano style — is confined to vocal lead on ‘After You’ve Gone’, almost stealing the album. But not quite. Laurie wrests back that mantle with Tipitina: a terrific piano/vocal tribute to the Doc (written by Doc’s own mentor, Professor Longhair). Hugh Laurie and friends sound as if they had a lot of fun making this album and that makes for hugely enjoyable listening. A special 19-track CD+DVD edition is also available.
MIKE DALY is a Melbourne journalist and music reviewer.