So we know Mr. Hugh Laurie from his hit role as Dr. House on... "House." The guy who still amazes me in that he can go from British (his native accent) to American in no time. I know it's very ethnocentric of me to think that way, but it's really a cool skill! Of course, the man does it all - even performs the blues. There are collaborations here, as well as Laurie talking on the piano and guitar. It topped the blues charts here in the US, and peaked at #16 on Billbooard's 200. We were actually the last to get it - the album was released in France, Germany, and the UK a good 5 months before here!
Follow along on your own copy or Spotify with me and let's see what all the talk is about.
The immediate start off is Hugh's hands across the piano - and damn, he's been hiding this talent. "St. James Infirmary" isn't like the blues and jazz we've been hearing from these instrumental groups of late. It's is smoky and passion filled in a way only musicians can give justice to. It's not until the vocals kick in that the entire song takes a turn, and we're introduced to Mr. Laurie's crying voice, much like a muted trumpet. Again, this is something unexpected for someone who's only heard him on house, yet welcomed for its difference.
You get more of the same with even more horns for "Buddy Bolden's Blues." It's another dragging number that's getting harder to hear on a regular basis, but I do have a growing love for this man's voice. It's just got this rawness throughout the songs that is shockingly appealing.
"Battle of Jericho" re-defines what we've considered classic in this blog since our December start. This is a song we used to sing in Sunday School way back in the day, and many had before us. This is a real old Negro spiritual, and is based out of the Bible. Want to get more classic than that? Yeah, I think until I hit some of the old Gregorian chants on my Ancient World albums, we've about reached the pinnacle.
We're back to the blues and done with the spirituals for a few moments, with "After You've Gone." It's a pretty simple piano and bass song, and Dr. John is featured, with Hugh just letting it all go I suppose. It's a song of making them realize what they had when it's over, with an entirely classic sound.
Where he really lets go? "Swanee River." Just when you think it's going to be more of the same, the back picks up and we're thrown into an instrumental party of good times with all. They let loose and jam up until the end where it seems Hugh remembers he actually had a vocal part to this songs, sings it once more, and closes things out. You rock brother.
That glorious piano is back for "John Henry," which also features Irma Thomas. As harsh as some of the lyrics are (death, hammers, etc. - eh, it makes sense if you listen) - the voices are divine together. They flow brilliantly and make for a fantastic listen to a smoke little old folk song.
"Police Dog Blues" is simple - a man and his guitar singing of his nomadic life. The guitar plays its own part as his companion throughout, almost like a dog being our best friend as you go. Perfect campfire chill song, kind of lousy studio song late at night when you're laying around trying to find interesting things to say about an album. It's an easy one though - nice and easy.
The same can't totally be said for "Tipitina," a song that does bring, seemingly, the whole band on for the jam. Oh, and there he in on piano again. This is actually a cover from the 70s, hence the bit of funk involvement throughout the song. I could probably ignore every single vocal line in here (sorry Hugh) and be completely satisfied with this song on an instrumental leve alone. The horns provide this awesome time travel technique that just makes the entire thing whole. Here's a little background on the number:
Seriously, the tone here does not mesh with any other time I've heard this guy's voice. It's driving me a little crazy, but I don't know if it's for the good or bad side of crazy. The song's only about a minute long, and based off of the old charleston chord progressions. It's a cute little filler number overall, right before we launch into the final few songs!
Duddeeeee Tom Jones. And Irma is back! This track's like a little gathering of the greats from this album and, obviously, a special guest, just to show off a bit. "Baby Please Make A Change" is not as upbeat as one (like me) might hope from such a compilation song, but it's a good and different one, utilizing strings and certainly giving Mr. Jones a whole new sound unlike anything I've ever heard before.
Added To My Playlist:
- "You Don't Know My Mind"
- "John Henry"
- "Let Them Talk"
Not the best cross-over into music I've heard from an actor, but really not a bad album at all. There's heart to the blue that's hard to always hit right, but he did a nice job of putting it into this one. It's just a lovely album as a whole, and a great venture into the blues.