Let Them Talk

Mike Daly

altlj-2012-37-1-let-them-talk-coverHugh Laurie; CD; Warner Music, 2011;
$24.99

Hugh Laurie is a modern renaissance man: an actor, academic, athlete (he rowed for Cambridge University) and, as this debut recording reveals, also an accomplished musician. If you’ve followed the lanky Laurie’s career, his musical penchant will come as no surprise. His piano and vocals often featured on the TV comedy series he shared with old friend Stephen Fry, while aficionados of the top-rating House will tell you Hugh’s cranky US medico frequently ends up tickling the ivories. In real life, Laurie is a multi-instrumentalist and fervent blues fan, and for this New Orleans-inspired recording, his vocals have been astutely augmented with a star backing ensemble. 

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.

(2012) 37(1) AltLJ 70
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