It is not the fate you would expect of the star of arguably the most popular TV show in the world, but Hugh Laurie has got the blues.
The British performer, 51, is the highest paid actor on US television for his role as Dr Gregory House in the medical drama and was previously a star of British TV with series including A Bit of Fry and Laurie and the PG Wodehouse adaptation Jeeves and Wooster.
Laurie says he is a lifelong fan of the blues, ever since hearing I Can’t Quit You Baby by Willie Dixon as a child. “I’m embarrassed to say I don’t recall where I was when I heard that John Lennon had been assassinated,” he said recently, “but I do remember where I was when I heard Muddy Waters had died. I was driving down the A1 from Lincolnshire and had this awful, selfish reaction: ‘Now I’ll never get to see him play live’.”
To satisfy his musical ambitions, Laurie recorded an album at Ocean Way studios in Los Angeles in September 2010, covering songs such as St James Infirmary.
Guests on the record, titled Let Them Talk, include pianist Dr John, blues singer Irma Thomas and Sir Tom Jones. Laurie sings lead vocals and plays the piano and guitar.
“In my imagination New Orleans just straight hummed with music, romance, joy, despair,” he said. “Its rhythms got into my gawky English frame and, at times, made me so happy and sad, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I love this music as authentically as I know how.”
The producer of the record, singer-songwriter Joe Henry, said: “I’m sincere when I say I think people will be stunned, not just at how much time he’s devoted to his musical life but how interesting his take on the music is.”
Laurie has previously played guitar in different episodes of House and guested as a pianist on Meat Loaf’s's 2010 album Hang Cool Teddy Bear following an appearance from the US rock star on the TV show. He also appeared in the music videos for the Kate Bush single Experiment IV in 1986 and the 1992 single Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox.
Anticipating criticism of his new career, Hugh Laurie added in a statement to accompany the release of Let Them Talk: “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. If that weren’t bad enough, I’m also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who can’t find his way through an airport without a babysitter.”
The album is released on 9 May. Laurie is billed to close the Cheltenham Jazz festival in May and a London date will also be announced.
For more information visit http://www.hughlaurieblues.com/home.htm
Somewhat amazingly it has taken until the recent relaunch of her fourth album from April 2010 for the music of Little Miss Higgins to catch my radar.
Little Miss Higgins (aka Jolene Higgins) was born in Brooks, Alberta.
The blues, folk and jazz performer was however in fact raised in Independence, Kansas prior to moving back north. Now based in Saskatchewan the singer-songwriter strikes out in a wonderful, cultured style as she showcases her fine work on guitar as well as vocals.
Supported by her partner, Foy Taylor (guitar), Joey Lorer (upright bass), Joanna Miller (drums), Jimmie James McKee (trumpet) and others the music contains a great vibrancy as her and the band swing through a varied set of tunes including some splendid ones of a ragtime nature.
There is a rare live feel to the new album “Across The Plains” the 1930s come to mind as she continually prompts and probes boundaries to produce a huge joyful sound.
‘Glad Your Whiskey Fits Inside My Purse’ could just as easily come from America’s infamous prohibition era as the listener is taken on a whistle stop trip through that period in time.
“Glad Your Whiskey Fits Inside My Purse” – Little Miss Higgins
Her stage name, Little Miss Higgins suits the undeniably inflammatory mix of her blues and country music repertoire but the moniker was largely accidental. “When I moved to Saskatchewan in 2002 I started hanging out with this Greek guy,” she recalls “He started calling me Little Miss Higgins so I used it on poster for a gig I was doing and it just stuck.”
As a songwriter, she has been influenced by a range of artists from Memphis Minnie, Billie Holiday, Big Bill Broonzy to Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan.
Her first two studio albums “Cobbler Shop Sessions” (2006) and “Junction City” (2007) superbly showcase Little Miss Higgins as a highly-developed songwriter as well as a remarkable country blues performer in a style gracefully highlighted by her partner, guitarist Foy Taylor and occasionally a handful of other roots musicians.
To her fan’s delight, there was the 2009 release “Little Miss Higgins Live: Two Nights In March”. The album was recorded at Amigo’s Cantina in Saskatoon, and Engineered Air Theatre in Calgary. The album features such favourite performance fare as “The Dirty Ol Tractor Song,” “Velvet Barley Bed,” “In The Middle Of Nowhere” and “I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits.” As well as a couple of previously unreleased songs including “Snowin’ Today: A Lament For Louis Riel.”
“I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits” (Live) – Little Miss Higgins
With her newest release, “Across The Plains” and partner Foy Taylor, Little Miss Higgins now enters international waters with a tour to the UK in the spring of 2011.
To buy the music of Little Miss Higgins click HERE
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