Words: James Passarelli

Hugh Laurie to release album

“Talent,” I’ve found, is one of the more vulgar and meaningless honors to be bestow upon anyone, especially in the case of artists.  It’s as charitable to Katy Perry as it is insulting to Kate Bush to claim they both have talent, and that only the latter has made proper use of it.  And rarely is it useful to compare levels of the most immeasurable human quality (un)known to man (or woman).

Yet when it comes to Hugh Laurie, it’s hard not to summon the “T” word.  As with (I assume) a handful of other Americans my age, my introduction to Laurie was the 1996 live action version of 101 Dalmatians.  Next, of course, came his rock-star international fame as the wise-cracking, pill-popping, raspacious Dr. House, M.D.  Only years later did I learn of his excellent comedic track record on his native island.  Not least on his impressive CV is the brilliant turn-of-the-nineties sketch show with Stephen Fry, A Bit of Fry & Laurie.  It’s clear from the show that he tickles the tusk – indeed, some of his best bits are sung from a piano bench.  But only recently did I discover the man’s music career, so far just an album long, or his love of New Orleans jazz (2011’s Let Them Talk is a collection of old blues covers).  This week’s Sunday Morning Selection comes from said album: the two-part rendition of the iconic song “St. James Infirmary Blues.”  Highlights include Laurie’s classically British syllable drop on “infirm-ry,” his nod to cue the bass at 3:21, and the song transition itself.  Man, this guy has talent.

And since one just isn’t enough, I’ve included a Sunday bonus, his performance of Ray Charles’s “Unchain My Heart” on Craig Ferguson.


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