|Laurie (left) with his band|
Hugh Laurie is currently the highest-paid actor on U.S television for his role in House, but the question now being asked about him is: Can he sing the blues?
A talented pianist, guitarist and saxophone player, the British actor is nevertheless raising eyebrows with his musical foray into blues music of the Deep South on an album called Let Them Talk, which is being released in mid-May.
On it he sings some blues standards such as Swanee River and St. James Infirmary mixed with other songs which have rarely been heard since the 1920s such as Police Dog Blues and Whinin' Boy Blues.
Music critic Lindsay Johns asks: "Will Laurie’s blues album actually be any good? He is an Anglo-Saxon male educated at Eton College playing a style of music traditionally the preserve of elderly African-American gentlemen, usually from the Deep South, telling of lives of privation and pain. Should music born out of a racialised crucible by historically disadvantaged and oppressed communities be dabbled in by others?"
Laurie, with typical humility, says:
"I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south. 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. That way lies the grave, for the blues and just about everything else. Shakespeare performed only at the Globe? Bach only played by Germans in tights?"
Or as one old Mississippi bluesman famously said: "It ain't where you're from---it's where you're at."