Hugh Laurie puts out his first blues album tomorrow.
If you’re American (actually, if you’re anyone with a television who’s not British), you know probably Hugh Laurie as Dr. House, that snarky doctor with the good writers and a screechy female following. If you’re British, you know Hugh Laurie as that guy your parents talk about who seems to be sort of common-law married to Stephen Fry.And if you’re into New Orleans blues, you have no idea who Hugh Laurie is at all. But don’t worry! He isn’t doing a blues album because that’s the cool thing for actors to do now, and he isn’t trying to convince anyone that he was born in New Orleans. He’s doing it – well, he’s doing it for no discernible Hollywood-esque reason. He’s a musician and he love New Orleans blues, and in the context of his celebrity it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, and he knows and admits that: “Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.”
As someone who – well, I’m not like a jazz expert, let’s just say As a 21 year old who knows who Jelly Roll Morton is, there were two things that made me want to pay attention to this album. The first was the preface he wrote to the album, at once gushing about the greats and saying that he doesn’t want to see blues “confined to a glass cabinet, under the heading Culture: Only To Be Handled By Elderly Black Men”. The second was his recording of St. Louis Blues, which starts out with a seriously impressive (but not obnoxious) piano intro, and features Hugh Laurie singing in all his British earnestness, and it somehow works. This is not the album of a poser or a bored celebrity. Elvis Costello reportedly said, upon hearing Laurie play, “This guy is a musician before he’s anything else. He’s probably a better musician than an actor.”