Deep Dive: Hugh Laurie, LET THEM TALK / DIDN’T IT RAIN
Today we celebrate the birthday of a gentleman named Hugh Laurie. Yes, we’re talking about the actor. Yes, we’re talking about the musician as well. If you didn’t know that they were one and the same, then it’s probably because you didn’t know the actor was a musician, and that’s fair enough, but we’re here to change that by doing a bit of a deep dive into the pair of albums released by Laurie that are part of the Rhino catalog.
In 2011, Laurie – who was riding high on the success of his U.S. TV series, House, and enjoying the highest American profile of his lengthy career – released his debut album, LET THEM TALK, its title possibly (but not definitely) inspired by the skepticism that most music fans have when they discover that someone best known for their acting ability steps out as a musician. Thankfully, Laurie came armed with a number of solid reasons for giving his LP a shot, including the fact that it was produced by noted singer-songwriter Joe Henry and featured guest appearances by Dr. John, Irma Thomas, and Tom Jones, not to mention horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint. Additionally, the song choices were decidedly familiar to blues fans, including “St. James Infirmary,” “Battle of Jericho,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Swanee River,” “John Henry,” “Tipitina,” “They’re Red Hot,” and the title track. As a result, LET THEM TALK inspired positive word of mouth and went on to hit #16 on the Billboard 200, climbed to #2 on the UK Albums chart, and proved to be the best-selling blues album of the year in the UK.
Two years later, Laurie returned with a second album, DIDN’T IT RAIN, which more or less follows along the same lines in terms of format, although he did switch things up a bit in terms of content. Yes, Henry is back in the producer’s chair and the song listing once again features a variety of blues covers, but Laurie also delves into other musical genres – a little jazz, a bit of R&B, and just a tad of tango – and feels comfortable bringing into guests whose skills are top-notch but whose profiles are as high, like Taj Mahal, Jean McClain, and Gaby Moreno. Once again, Laurie ended up with an LP that did solid business, hitting #21 in the US and #3 in the UK, but he’s yet to deliver another album since then. We can only keep our fingers crossed that he’ll get around to it one of these days.
In closing, and you can call this a birthday bonus if you like, but we thought we’d also throw in a few Hugh Laurie appearances which may have flown under your radar, including a couple of guest vocals and a couple of music-video cameos:
1. Kate Bush, “Experiment IV” (1986)
2. Annie Lennox, “Walking on Broken Glass” (1992)
3. Right Said Fred and Friends, “Stick It Out” (1993)
4. Meat Loaf, “If I Can’t Have You” (2010)
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