Hugh Laurie’s successful onscreen portrayal of the reclusive misanthrope (House if you’re living under rocks) continually confirms his versatility as an actor. At the piano however, it takes a little more to convince us that his skinny croak suits hearty New Orleans blues he sets his heart in motion to. It’s an inevitability that Let Them Talk’s primary spokesperson is a middle-aged, conceited man with a cane on a mission to make as many enemies as possible, whilst simultaneously rescuing some mutant from a malignant form of obscure cancer. In some ways, the parallelism I’m drawing between Dr House and this southern blues counterpart is rather crude and cliché, but, it is no less an interesting dilemma that I was faced with during the first few listens. You see, Laurie, and the recent surplus of grumpy old male proponents of talent have more than enough doe to make records with the best session musos around. In this way, the music felt polished and energetic, yet occasionally impassive, even though Laurie clearly wanted to make it malleable and something truly of his own. It’s not that the record appeared to lack sincerity, more that it appeared to lack any defining character other than, dare I say it, a star with a unique tone, which means anyone (probably) could have sat the same spot.
But, as you listen, and gradually become at one with the true man behind the keys, it’s evident that Laurie’s devotion towards such a project is also why he ends up becoming the album's hero, saviour even. This could have been just another everyday blues record with a collection of musical masters piggybacking the star on the cover, yet Let Them Talk ends up being more than just another overplayed rendition of pre-war classics. Somehow, oddly, he injects his charm into music without destroying their original magnetism. And even though this voice may not be as well suited, his abilities on the piano (and guitar) are remarkably well settled, as if he'd been playing this music all his life. The opener “St James Infirmary” demonstrates this fact amid its thundering toms and strident piano lines, in turn doubling as the album’s most effectual statement. From here, there’s more than enough material to suggest that Laurie is not only a terrific actor, but also a proficient bluesman, which in the end isn’t all that surprising, given he’s always been passionate for music since the Fry and Laurie days—it’s only now, 20-or-so years later that we’re seeing the skills finally rear their heads.
After reading this review my only complaint is that I feel as though you talk more about Hugh Laurie rather than Hugh Laurie's music. However I like how you communicated your opinion on the album and the moderation that you exercised so have a very clearly earned pos!
Just really getting into House now. Despite its formulaic nature (ie: patient comes in, House misdiagnoses them, he broods about it for a while, has a stunning realization and cures said patient), it's still really interesting to watch, and House's jaded, sarcastic, fearless persona is so well executed. Also, this album is pretty great.