Less Laurie, More Blues
I’m British and so is Hugh Laurie, although many people do not know that. He first became famous in the USA when he appeared as the grumpy and drug addicted Dr. Gregory House M.D. But he was first known in the UK nearly two decades earlier, first as a recurring character in Blackadder II, and finally as one of the main characters in Blackadder the Third and goes Forth. It was during these early years of his career and later on as one half of the team of Fry and Laurie, that he began to show his musical talent, albeit in a comical way. In recent years he has turned his head to music, specifically the music of blues, which was a big influence when he was a child.
For many years I was a blues virgin, always intending to listen to some blues but never getting around to it. My first blues album was Laurie’s first album, Let It Be, so I was damn excited when he announced another. Didn’t It Rain moves away from the ‘man and piano’ style of the first album and into a larger variety of blues. Due to this change in style, Laurie is forced to add a bigger backing group, instruments and all. But does adding all this new music really add to the album? Or is it a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth?
From the first moments of the opening track, it is obvious that this machine is a different make to the one that came before it. From the opening wind section to the closing wind section, this album has a good selection of quality blues for both those new to the blues genre and for those who have more experience. There is real emotion laced within this music, going from scenes of pure bliss, to the depths of true pain and suffering. Laurie is able to use his many years as an actor to bring so much pain to his voice that you’d think his wife left him after booting him in the balls.
Didn’t It Rain contains some brilliant covers across its duration, the excellently well done ‘Weed Smokers Song’ is a brilliant classic, and the female vocalist pulls it off to a tee, brining back sweet memories of when Jessica Rabbit sung the same song to a smitten Bob Hoskins in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’
However the album does have occasional flaws, the biggest critique being Laurie’s occasional reluctance to take the stage when it comes to singing. Several of the songs have him purely on the piano, leaving someone else to take the centre stage. This isn’t generally a bad thing, and many of the guest vocalists have excellent talent as bluesmen / women. Laurie’s accent is something which is not very common to the blues genre, a middle-class British man, but for some reason is seems to fix perfectly and gives the album a specific sparkle.
In addition, there is the issue that this music is mostly a collection of classic blues songs, and many of these songs have several covers of them already, including the classic original versions, as such these new shiny ones may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Also the album does tend to a sound a wee bit similar as time flows on, despite how fantastic the majority of it is.
Didn’t It Rain is an excellent second album by Hugh Laurie, and a brand spanking fantastic record worth a few spins on the vinyl player. This is a chilling record to drink alone to after your wife leaves you for a younger man, taking the house and the dog with her. You have nothing left, except the clothes on your body, the shoes on your feet and your wallet in your pocket. It’s an album well deserving of the feeling blue, it will have you in its grasp from the opening seconds to its final moments. Stand out tracks include ‘The Weed Smokers Song’ and ‘The St. Louis Blues’, which show the musical skill of a man who has only just tip toed into the fantastic world of blues. Let us all hope that Laurie is here to stay.
1. “The St. Louis Blues”
2. “Junkers Blues”
3. “Kiss of Fire”
4. “Vicksburg Blues”
5. “The Weed Smoker’s Dream”
6. “Wild Honey”
7. “Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair”
9. “Didn’t It Rain”
10. “Careless Love”
11. “One For My Baby”
12. “I Hate A Man Like You”