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Review: Hugh Laurie’s “Let Them Talk”

(I wrote this a few weeks back for future posting. With my first grad school term ending this coming week, it seemed like a good time.)

This post’s connection to psychology is admittedly tenuous, at best, in that my sister was at a therapy training workshop when she bought me this as a surprise present:

Now, this is a blues album, and to the best of my recollection, my exposure to the blues has been limited and, perhaps oddly, only through Caucasian men who I first “met” as actors. That River by Jim Byrnes, of Highlander: The Series, has for 13 years been my only album in this genre. Though I like it, it’s not usually my first port of call when my fingers ply the controls of my MP3 player.

So I make no claims of being a blues expert. I’ll gladly admit I’m not qualified to be a music critic – I have no lengthy training in or study of music or performance. I can’t even identify with any confidence the range in which Hugh Laurie sings (baritone? tenor?).

But I can say that Let Them Talk was an obvious labor of love from a man sharing with the world his adoration of the blues. His liner notes betray his deep connection to this music with self-effacing humor:

Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south. … Why listen to an actor’s music? The answer is – there is no answer. If you care about pedigree then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size. … I could never bear to see this music confined to a glass cabinet, under the heading Culture: Only To Be Handled By Elderly Black Men. … I love this music, as authentically as I know how, and I want you to love it too.

The album producer notes that the recording schedule was deferred and rearranged to suit the availability of musicians he and Laurie felt were the best of the best.

And to my undereducated ear, Laurie’s rich voice envelops each note with the savoring quality of a foodie enjoying the finest truffle. During the instrumentals, my mind’s eye recalls scenes from House or A Bit of Fry and Laurie of his long, graceful fingers dancing over ivory keys or coaxing magic from steel strings. I’ve known for some times that he’s had these skills, but until now I’ve more or less only seen him employ them in the service of comedy:

But perhaps the best recommendation I can make for this album is the observation that it was more than a minute into “After You’ve Gone” (Track 6) on my first listen before I noticed my finger tapping on the steering wheel. I think it shows the true passion and skill of the performers when the music can wriggle its way into your body and make you move without consciously realizing it.

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