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Hugh Laurie – Let Them Talk

Hugh Laurie, Let Them Talk

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IS THERE anything that Hugh Laurie can’t do… and well? A genuinely funny comedian, an excellent actor (complete with fireproof American accent) and now an accomplished pianist and half-decent singer!

Laurie’s debut album Let Them Talk offers a very personal collection of blues standards and lost classics that’s been lovingly put together with some very special guests.

Produced by Joe Henry and recorded at sessions in Los Angeles and New Orleans, Let Them Talk finds Laurie heading a team of musicians who have worked with the greats, as well as collaborations with Irma Thomas, the soul queen of New Orleans, Sir Tom Jones and Dr John.

And he’s as unapologetic about indulging his passion as a certain Dr House, declaring brazenly in the album’s sleeve notes that “if you care about pedigree then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size”.

He need not have worried. Laurie’s charm and global appeal, coupled with his talent and devotion to his various crafts, means that this is an album that can be enjoyed by anyone, whether fans of blues or not. Laurie has chosen his selections exceptionally well.

Highlights, of which there are many, include his rousing, banjo-swept interpretation of Lead Belly’s You Don’t Know My Mind, and a sparkling piano-led take on Jelly Roll Morton’s Buddy Bolden’s Blues, which offers a lovely showcase of his playing prowess.

Irma Thomas takes lead vocal duty on the dusky John Henry, which is pure, sparkling class, there’s some lovely hangdog blues on Police Dog Blues that permeates the Deep South, while there’s a keen sense of the showman in Laurie on the brisk, foot-stomping They’re Red Hot.

And if those weren’t enough to recommend it, Irma Thomas returns with Tom Jones on the out-and-out classic interpretation of Mississippi Sheiks’ Baby, Please Make A Change, while Dr John provides even more magic on After You’ve Gone.

If we’re being ultra churlish, then you could criticise the album, or rather Laurie’s vocals, for not really providing the gruff, lived in vibe of a proper bluesman. But then he courageously admits that he’s no classic performer in that sense (see above).

And when a bunch of musicians and performers are having this much fun, while broadening the appeal of the blues to potentially many more listeners, then you’re kind of missing the point if you choose to go down that route.

Make no mistake, this is a masterful collection from a genuinely talented all-rounder whose consistent ability to remain at the top of his game is stunning.

Download picks: You Don’t Know My Mind, Buddy Bolden’s Blues, After You’ve Gone, John Henry, Police Dog Blues, They’re Red Hot, Baby, Please Make A Change

Track listing:

  1. St James Infirmary
  2. You Don’t Know My Mind
  3. Six Cold Feet
  4. Buddy Bolden’s Blues
  5. Battle of Jericho
  6. Swanee River
  7. The Whale Has Swallowed Me
  8. John Henry
  9. Police Dog Blues
  10. Tipitina
  11. Winin’ Boy Blues
  12. They’re Red Hot
  13. Baby, Please Make A Change
  14. Let Them Talk