The last time I wrote about Hugh Laurie’s surprisingly adept blues debut nearly two years ago, the world of WordPress took note and rocketed the little review to Freshly Pressed status. The album never quite took off in the US, but my post did because at the time the music was only available in the UK — I’d just happened to luck into a press copy by accident, becoming the first US critic to say anything about it. What’s great about Laurie’s blues work, which makes the album stand out even two years in, is the fact that he comes at the music as a fan. He’s heard this music all his life, and it’s soaked into his soul — something which makes his performances work even when you perhaps wouldn’t otherwise take him seriously.
Today I learned he’s putting his music out there further in the UK to promote the NHS’s Organ Donor Registry via ITV, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of donors in that region. Laurie took to Oceanway Studios in Los Angeles, recording a rollicking cover of “Unchain My Heart” for the cause in the same venue where everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald have recorded. You can watch the video below, and then dig deep into Let Her Talk like you should have done two years ago. It’s not too late to recognize a wide-ranging talent when you hear one.
When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by a brimming box full of emails and the sight of “Hear! Hear!” on the front page of WordPress. And I’ve got to say, I’m honored that my Hugh Laurie album review was deemed worthy enough to have them choose to showcase my site on the main page. But more important, I’m hoping that all the new readers who flow onto this site because of that review will stick around to read about the other fine music I’ve been writing about here for more than 18 months. Because in the end there’s a never-ending supply of great music. Now’s the perfect chance to start up a real conversation!
So to all you new WordPress readers who are possibly finding this site for the first time — and at this point more than 3,600 of you have wandered thorugh since the page was featured – I hope you enjoy what you find and feel like chiming in with your two cents. If you’ve got a musical tip for me, a band you want me to hear, or you just want to shout at me for something I said that you take umbrage to — whatever the case, I hope you’ll feel free to email me or respond in kind on this site.
Everyone’s welcome to join the conversation! And again, thanks for reading!
Year of the Album — #031
Hugh Laurie – “Let Them Talk” (2011, Warner Bros. Records)
From the opening notes of “St. James Infirmary,” it’s clear that Hugh Laurie is not fucking around with Let Them Talk, the British actor’s first foray into launching a music career. You might be prone to laugh, if it weren’t for Laurie’s impeccable chops as a bluesman. This is a serious attempt at bringing a great deal of New Orleans flair to the table, and Laurie’s even got Allen Toussaint around to provide spectacular horn arrangements. Give the album a chance and you’ll be converted. By the time Let Them Talk has played out in its full glory, you’ll have forgotten this is a blues album by an actor. It’ll be more “where’s this guy been all these years?”
The album is comprised of a series of classic blues songs, many of which feature Laurie performing alongside the likes of Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, and Dr. John. Produced by Joe Henry, the album plays out as a serious endeavor, and Laurie comes at these songs with real relish. On the title track he lets his voice and piano tell it all, and holding that song up to the light on its own merits it seems to completely sum up his motives. “Let them whisper because they know not what’s between you and I,” he sings. “I’m gonna keep on, I’m gonna keep on loving you ‘til the day that I die.” If that’s the case, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many who have heard Let Them Talk who will be disappointed if Hugh Laurie was to take more opportunities to let his musical side shine.