'Tis a long road from Old Blighty and his hilarious portrayal of a rather foppish King George in the popular Black Adder TV series, to producing an album of Down South Mississippi blues — but acclaimed actor, musician and writer Hugh Laurie has accomplished this amazingly well.
What we have in Let Them Talk is a collection of raw, gut-felt blues songs that sound as though they come straight from a dark smoke-filled club in down town New Orleans.
Yet in the album blurb Laurie makes it quite clear: "I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I have never eaten grits, cropped a share or ridden a boxcar. Let the record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south…"
Trespassing my foot — Laurie's version of Police Dog Blues, Swanee River and Buddy Bolden's Blues are as raw and as murky real as the wide old Mississippi river itself. And even though his music is aimed straight at the soul of blues lovers even non-fans of trad New Orleans and Delta blues will find pleasure in this album.
For whatever he might lack in credentials he more than makes up with passion, superbly fired up by producer Joe Henry, himself no stranger to the whisky-soaked, heart-ache filled darker side of the blues music world. Together they weave spiritual with tears, piano boogie-woogie with fiddles, guitars with Gospel choirs in fifteen of the most original, most enjoyable collection of blues I have listened to in years.
Picking a favourite from this collection is as difficult as having to decide between having another drink or going home, but I would probably go for the St James Infirmary which gives free rein to Laurie's ivory-tickling skills although the stomping Swanee River runs a close second.
Varying from magically melancholy to infectiously upbeat with this, his first journey into swamps music, Laurie establishes himself as a very real bluesman.
Let Them Talk is a five-star, absolutely must-buy for every fan of the blues.