What’s crazier than Dr. Gregory House making an album? The fact that it’s not half bad. Actually, it’s really very good. Hugh Laurie is beginning to prove himself the exception to every rule. Celebrity/musician crossovers have a tendency to be…well…terrible to say the least. William Shatner, anyone? Also, an English guy doing the blues. There must be an embarrassingly short list of nominees in that category, because the only other two that come to mind are Eric Clapton and John Mayall.
We’ve caught a glimpse of his musical history in a handful of House episodes, but it’s taken him this long to actually release his first full-length album, Let Them Talk, released earlier this month. Granted, he does have a pretty impressive cast of characters including Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Kevin Breit, Vincent Henry, and Allen Toussaint, but Laurie is the man with the plan on piano and main vocals.
Laurie’s homage to New Orleans is a serious foray into music, despite the atypical environs. Most celebrities take their fame status to the bank, expecting their name to sell albums, but with Let Them Talk, it’s easy to forget that this is House we’re talking about. Knight status having, boat rowing, classic comedian House. His renditions of classic blues songs like “St. James Infirmary”, “After You’ve Gone” and “They’re Red Hot” never feel forced. It’s almost shameful how well a white, English guy sings the blues. In fact, Laurie himself muses in the liner notes, “I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there’s no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.” At least he admits it.
This is an better blues album than I could even hope to find in 2011, proving that recollective and universal themes in myth and music will never be out of style. I also love how this album seems to be purely for Laurie’s sake. I’m sure he’s not hurting in the financial department, reportedly making $400,000 PER EPISODE for the hit series on Fox. It’s simply Hugh Laurie doing what he likes to do and possibly bringing a few old names back into the spotlight.
As for the album itself…quite frankly, I love it. The piano is simply phenomenal and you really can’t beat Allen Toussaint for a string arrangement. Laurie’s voice ranges from a raspy, sombre timbre to him just plain old having fun (you can almost SEE the House-like smirk on his face in a few of them).
This is an earnest, genuine, honest-to-god blues album from an Englishman. And an actor. What could have been a laughable mishap ended up being what I’m finding the be my favorite album of the year so far. It even gets an A.
You can check out all the latest news of Laurie’s blues ventures on his site, the Twitter, the Facebook, or his Myspace. You can also check out this video (hooray for Jools Holland!). Happy hump day, everyone!
“You Don’t Know My Mind”