Hugh Laurie returns with his second album, “Didn’t It Rain”

Didn't It RainI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Hugh Laurie is a ridiculously talented man. While famous around the world for playing the much loved doctor in the television series House, in which he also put on a quite convincing American accent (he’s British), he started off his career in the world of comedy, often alongside Stephen Fry in such shows as Blackadder, A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, and Jeeves and Wooster. Top all this off with several movie appearances, and even the novel he wrote, The Gun Seller, and the fact that he has now turned to music and released his second album kind of makes him seem like a show off. But, with talent like this, he’s allowed to show off.

His first album, Let Them Talk, ventured into the New Orleans style of blues music, as he covered many of his lifelong favourite songs with musicians who he has always looked up to. With his follow up album, Didn’t It Rain, he continues this bluesy sound but explores music from the rest of America from this same time period. The main album has thirteen tracks, though there is a deluxe version with an extra five track disc that is worth getting if only for this song, “Unchain My Heart” (and his little talk at the start of the clip is quite funny – you’ll see why):

There are some definite differences between this new album and his first. While he took lead vocals on almost all of the tracks on his first album, this time around he shares lead vocal duties with the incredibly talented Jean McClain and Gaby Moreno on three tracks each, and Taj Mahal sings lead vocals on another song. The extra voices, particularly the strong female vocals, really add a lot to this album, giving it a very different mood to the first. There’s a lot of slower or quieter songs near the start too, although it starts to liven up a bit in the second half, which I quite like.

Reading through the liner notes, Hugh Laurie is very modest about playing these songs, and makes it clear that he does it because he loves the music so much, and they clearly mean so much to him. He brings each and every song to life in his own unique way, with that surprisingly strong and crisp voice of his, and he explains the story behind each song in the album notes as well – he hasn’t just chosen a bunch of songs at random but has very carefully selected what he wants to sing and perform.

After a few listens, I find myself almost as impressed with this new album as I was with his first, which is saying a lot. If you haven’t heard Hugh Laurie’s music yet, you really are missing out – it’s a lot of fun, and very addictive to listen to. I’ll finish off with another of my favourite tracks, “Wild Honey”:

What are your thoughts on Hugh Laurie as a musician and singer?

Music Monday: Hugh Laurie, Jack Johnson and Band of Horses

Let Them Talk by Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie shot to fame over the last decade for playing the lead role in the medical drama House, but he was known long before that in some parts of the world as a very funny, and very British, comedian. And those who have seen his comedy from decades past may perhaps recall that he often would play the piano or guitar and sing on regular occasion (even if for comedic effect). With a second album on the way, it’s clear that Laurie has now chosen to focus on his music aspirations, and his new album is supposed to follow on from this debut work in which he played and recorded a lot of his favourite songs from the New Orleans blues scene, alongside many other famous blues musicians. He is insanely talented and his music is very catchy and uplifting – just listen to his take on “Swanee River” and you’ll see what I mean:

En Concert by Jack Johnson

This is perhaps one of my favourite live albums of all time, recorded during his “Sleep Through The Static” tour of 2008. Released in 2009, the album features performances from a number of shows, many from Paris but also some from other parts of Europe and the UK. The set-list features a lot of my favourites, although to be honest I love everything this guy has ever released so I’d be pretty difficult to disappoint. The song I’ve included contains footage from the film that accompanied this album (of the same name), and is of the songs “Belle” and “Banana Pancakes” – just try and listen without smiling, it’s impossible I tell you:

Mirage Rock by Band of Horses

I only discovered this band a couple of years ago, but I really love their Americana styled vocals, and their ability to jump between sweet and melancholy ballads, folk songs and upbeat rock songs. What I find particularly impressive is that they seem to keep improving as their career spurs on – four albums in and they sound stronger than they ever have before. They’re one of those bands who seem to have become popular through word of mouth, but looking at the figures on some of their clips on Youtube, they have definitely achieved a substantial level of success, as they deserve. Listen to the lead single and album opener, “Knock Knock”, and you’ll see why I like this band so much:

What have you been listening to this week?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 3 – My favourite genre of music

Not too long ago, I watched a documentary about Hugh Laurie and his recent dabbling in blues music with his album titled Let Them Talk. When the topic of genres came up, he quite simply said “I don’t see the point of genres – there’s only really good music, and bad music, and that’s all you need to know.” Or something to that effect. And I must confess that this point of view does resonate quite strongly with me.

However, I should give a proper answer to this topic, so I’m going to keep it simple. My favourite genre is…

ROCK!

There, that was easy, wasn’t it? Yes, I love rock music, and all the various sub-genres that fall under it (I mean really, almost every genre in contemporary music owes something to the rock genre).

To fully appreciate the power of rock music, and how it can save the day in a range of situations, watch the following clip (yes I know it’s from a cartoon movie…and the song doesn’t start until a couple of minutes into it…but the first time I watched this I laughed so much I cried):

Rock on kids, rock on!

What’s your favourite genre of music?

What are your thoughts on Hugh Laurie’s (rather paraphrased) statement about genres?

The Wit and Wisdom of P. G. Wodehouse

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog in which I discussed a few different books of quotations, including those famous and those relatively unknown, many funny and some wise. Since then, I have bought another book of quotations, one which focuses on just one amazing author, P. G. Wodehouse. The book is called The Wit and Wisdom of P. G. Wodehouse, and is compiled and edited by Tony Ring.

I wanted to write a blog about this specific book for a number of reasons. Wodehouse was an amazing author, and a much loved humorist  during his long and illustrious career as a writer, during which he wrote nearly a hundred books. His books were quintessentially British, often making fun of the English aristocracy, but his writing was of such a nature as to be enjoyable by all kinds of readers. Evelyn Waugh believed that Wodehouse produced “three wholly original similes on each page,” which, if this is an exaggeration, is only a very slight one at that. Wodehouse’s ability to manipulate and play with words is unique, masterful and utterly joyful, and has inspired many writers over the last century.

This anthology includes some of the best quotes by Wodehouse from all his various novels and characters, and is compiled so that each left page contains witticisms, while the right hand pages have words of wisdom. For fans of Wodehouse, it is fun to indulge in some of these classic moments, while for newcomers it may provide a nice entrance into the world of this man’s magnificent mind.

Here are some of my favourites from this book:

Wit:

“Warm though the morning was, he shivered, as only a confirmed bachelor gazing into the naked face of matrimony can shiver.”

“He was in the acute stage of that malady which, for want of a better name, scientists call the heeby-jeebies.”

“‘…I assure you, on the word of an English gentleman, that this lady is a complete stranger to me.’ ‘Stranger?’ ‘A complete and total stranger.’ ‘Oh?’ said the bloke. ‘Then what’s she doing sitting in your lap?'”

“A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.”

“It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away.”

Wisdom:

“It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.”

“It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”

“I was one of those men my mother always warned me against.”

“I attribute my whole success in life to a rigid observance of the fundamental rule – Never have yoursself tattooed with any woman’s name, not even her initials.”

“The advice I give to every young man starting to seek out a life partner is to find a girl whom he can tickle.”

“That’s the way to get on in the world – by grabbing your opportunities. Why, what’s Big Ben but a wrist-watch that saw its chance and made good.”

If you’ve never read any Wodehouse, I urge you to do so. I would perhaps suggest starting with one of the Jeeves and Wooster novels, of which there are plenty (there are also four seasons of a television show based on Jeeves and Wooster, which starred Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie – I always read these novels in their voices as a result).

Happy reading!