Hugh Laurie – Didn’t It Rain (2013)

The beloved and multi-talented Hugh Laurie returns with his musical follow up to 2011’s Let Them Talk. A bluesy jazz entwined musical masterpiece, incorporating his supporting musicians The Copper Bottom Band and numerous vocalists including Jean McClain and Guatemalan singer/songwriter Gaby Moreno, Hugh brings us a beautiful and encapsulating insight to the music from the American heartlands. The songs range from those from early pioneering musicians like W. C. Handy to more modern artists such as Dr. John.

Produced by Let Them Talk producer Joe Henry, and recorded in Los Angeles at Ocean Way Studio in January. The album opens with ‘The St. Louis Blues’, a very quirky and haunting sound at first, slighty flamenco sounding rolling into a real classic blues sound and back again. It is so thorough with every instrument and cymbal perfectly placed and timed. Jean McClain takes vocals on this track towards the end, and does a fantastic job helping wrap up this classic blues track.

As second track ‘Junkers Blues’ gets started, I feel I should be sitting in a rickety old rocking chair rocking back and forth on the porch on a hot summer eve watching the sun go down. Such a mellow tune with a nice fat blues vocal tone full of character spread all over it, awesome!!

‘Kiss of Fire’ takes a more Spanish/Latino feel with elements of Jazz and class oozing from every phrase. Blues club entertainment right to the core, cigarette holders, tuxedos and roses in teeth. Sexual and sassy through and through.

Two time Grammy Award winner Taj Mahal features on his version of Little Brother Montgomery’s ‘Vicksburg Blues’, and you can hear straight away why he has won this award twice. Soul and blues is just riddled through this man’s vocal chords. If you wanted to know what a male blues vocal should sound like, listen to this man! The track bops along so simply, yet so deep and raw.

‘The Weed Smokers Dream’ is entrancing and hypnotic. Whilst listening to this, to truly appreciate it, I would suggest you lay back on a chair or bed, get a couple of candles burning, have your preference of tipple in your hand and close your eyes. Let the music course through you as you get lost in the vocal mastery of Gaby Moreno.

Dr. John’s ‘Wild Honey’ is one of the more recent tracks and certainly has some funk and spunk! Reminds me of something Jools Holland might get involved with, piano jing-jangling along all the way through.

‘Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair’ has a nice hook at the start, which sounds like it is crying out for an R&B artist or producer of nowadays to sample and turn into something more “pop” and “now”. Such a chain-gang feel about this song, and yet another strong vocal performance by Jean. Power and pain rip through this song and I have to take a second listen, love it!

Bluesy ‘Evenin’ ‘ has dark and dirty undertones, a fruity red with hints of plum and…. Sorry, I’m getting carried away with the horns in this…. I especially love the gritty guitar licks that raise their heads on occasion. The only thing I will say is that I wish I could have more of that guitar amongst the madness because its tone is soooo good!!

Title track ‘Didn’t It Rain’ brings an almost skiffle beat and blues double bass with licks of jazz and gospel all wrapped together amidst Gaby Moreno vocal excellence. A very warm and positive feel to this song, short, sweet and to the point. I cannot fault it.

‘Careless Love’ has Hugh taking lead vocal and to great effect. His tone is nice, and then I’m thrown a harmonica solo and guitar solo, both of which melt in my ears!! It amazes me that this is the same Hugh Laurie I used to watch as a child with Stephen Fry!!

I could go on about the other tracks on this album, but you are just going to have to check them out for yourselves. For days when you want to feel soul, class and need to drift away on a cloud of pure deliciousness, grab this album and put it on. It will take you to a place within yourself where you will realise this is why music was made, so that all these instruments can be pulled together to boast their own uniqueness and quality, yet produce something so heartfelt and together it simply blows you away. It is from where modern music has evolved, and where the true heart of music will always lie.

Fair play to you Mr Laurie, you have done a damn fine job with this album and I look forward to hearing the next. If you like blues and jazz, you will enjoy this, if you don’t, then I still suggest you give it a try as there might be a track or two that will surprise you and leave you wondering why you never listened to blues before.

Check this out if you like Jools Holland, Frank Sinatra and maybe even Gnarles Barkley (without the beat!).

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