The Blues has lately become a “modern musical ghetto” for non-Blues performers like Cyndi Lauper and Hugh Laurie and their ilk who are bored with their current lot in life and so they take the next easiest route back to feigned admiration by “making a Blues album” as a one-off for fun.  Hugh Laurie’s latest musical miasma landed on September 6, 2011 and I am absolutely confounded by his mock singing style and his cynical delivery.  The guy cannot loft a tune, so why make an album?  Why did Hugh Laurie think we’d want to pay $10.00USD for his musical masturbation in the public square?

If a star in one genre is making a Blues album in a secondary genre, you can be certain their career is on on a steep decline and they’re desperately looking for another revenue avenue. Country music has that same sort of career desperation album — see Jeff Bridges as the most recent example — but The Blues is supposed to be the sacred higher art form, and so you get a much braver attempt at covering the desperation.

The work Clapton has done in the Blues — resurrecting Robert Johnson is a prime example — is admirable, and necessary, and we forever owe him for carrying the torch forward. Who’s next in line to take up where Clapton left off? We now know the answer is definitely not Hugh Laurie.

Jazz, unlike the Blues, is a much harder genre to fake — and that’s why you see so few “failing celebrity” attempts at a Jazz album.  You gotta have the chops to play Jazz and its stunning chord melodies, and the musical effort quickly becomes obvious if the attempt is serious or not.

When pseudo-celebrities decide to make a Blues album, we are all wounded by the effort because the cheapening of the history of the Blues confounds the line between true suffering and faux restlessness.  When celebrities suck up all the air in the Blues niche, there isn’t any breathing room left for new Blues geniuses like Sean Costello or Andy Poxon to thrive — and that makes these celebrity Blues albums a crime against artistry as well as a defamation of our shared, historical, aesthetic.

22 Comments

    1. I think it is all about PR, Gordon. House is starting its new season this week and Hugh is full-on in “look at me” mode on every page and channel. I understand the effort to push his celebrity agenda, but that kicking shouldn’t have to result in a degradation of an entire musical genre along the way.

  1. and another thing: Hugh has gotten the help of some giant New Orleans blues legend in their own right: dr. John , Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint. Because they understand clearly that Hugh Laurie is trying to do exactly what you credit Eric Clapton for: Getting this kind music out of the history books and into the open. The fact that you don’t even mention them in your review, shows clearly that you probaly only sampled one track, perhaps even two and then had your mind all made up already.

    1. None of that matters, Claudia. It’s Hugh’s album. The band surrounding him makes no difference. They’re collecting a paycheck.

      As for Clapton, you are showing how out of your element you are. I see from your Twitter account that you are a Hugh Laurie fan and not a Blues fan.

      Clapton is, and has always been, a musician first. He has been rooted in the Blues since his early days with the Yardbirds and John Mayall. Then, in order to resurrect the historical significance of Robert Johnson, he set about to reanimate his music with a modern updating. Clapton is the Blues. Hugh Laurie pretends the blues.

  2. and last but not least :
    you wrote:
    “If a star in one genre is making a Blues album in a secondary genre, you can be certain their career is on on a steep decline and they’re desperately looking for another revenue avenue.”

    Another dead wrong : Hugh Laurie is at the moment the most watched leading man on tv in the most polular tv show in the whole world, with the highest pay check in US TV , according to the new Guinness book of records. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/8762970/Guinness-Book-of-Records-Hugh-Laurie-is-most-watched-man-on-television.html

    1. None of that matters, either, Claudia.

      Let’s let Hugh himself settle against your argument:

      Hugh Laurie is set to quit House.

      The British actor – who plays antagonistic Dr. Gregory House in the medical drama – thinks his run on the show will soon come to an end after shooting on the eighth season concludes this summer.

      In an interview with Radio Times magazine, he said: “The end of that season, right now looks like the end of the show. Well, that’s as far as they’ve got me for.”

      The 51-year-old star is now focusing on his début solo blues album Let Them Talk – which he is promoting with a string of performances throughout Europe this month – and insists he feels more comfortable performing music than he does acting because he has never settled into a routine like he can with singing.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10724810

  3. If this project is all about celebrity, publicity and, let’s just come out and say it, an opportunity to take advantage of [H]ouse’s popularity to make a few extra bucks, why didn’t he make the album, say, three or four years ago when the show was at it’s peak and garnering teens of millions of viewers every week? If you’re a TV actor looking to make an album and take advantage of your millions and millions of viewers, it would make sense to do it when the show is at its peak instead of in a decline like [H]ouse is, right?

    1. I’m not sure I’m understanding your argument.

      When he was in the middle of House, he didn’t need a second genre to keep propagating his fame because the show was doing that for him. Now that he’s done with the show, he needs “something else” to keep up his popularity and celebrity interest — hence, this terrible, ill-conceived, “Blues” album.

  4. Um, yes. David, I think you win. Brilliance in acting does not necessarily qualify one to sing. Mr. Laurie should stick to playing piano, which he’s reasonably good at, in dive bars. He does not have the right voice for blues (it seems to be stuck in his head, if that makes sense.) Authentic Blues comes from the gut.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’m not really hoping to win anything. I do think Hugh is a great actor. I don’t watch House, but I have seen him in random movies for a long time. I was writing more about the strange inequity where stars like Hugh and Lauper and Bridges think that just because they have success in one aesthetic genre, they should be enabled, by default, to succede by acclimation in another genre just because of who they were and not what their talent is right now.

      1. OH, David…. you don’t watch [H]ouse? You do realize I have priorities. If you’re not a
        [H]ouse fan, I’m not sure I can associate with you 🙂
        And I was ready to forgive you for liking Jazz too. tsk tsk tsk 🙂

  5. Ahem:

    Twilight hunk Robert Pattinson is about to record his first album of original songs. “Rob has been kicking a few original songs around for a long time, but his schedule didn’t allow it,” an insider tells Us Weekly. The actor has previously recorded two songs, “Let Me Sign” and “Never Think” – which he co-wrote with friend Sam Bradley – for the Twilight soundtracks.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/twilight-star-robert-pattinson-to-record-album-20110920

    The prosecution rests.

  6. Well David it’s rather obvious you have no idea what you are talking about. First of all the album is great. And just because Hugh is leaving house doesn’t mean his carrier is on a decline. He could get any movie deal he wanted. And if you did your research you would also see that Hugh has had a deep love for the blues ever since he was a child. And bringing up Eric Clapton doesn’t do to well for your argument. Yes he is very important to the blues but he sold out in a huge was when he found out he could make more money playing other music. I highly doubt you know much about the blues. Anybody can through out Clapton’s name and call themselves a fan.

    1. If you are conflating Hugh and Eric as somewhat equal talents in yaw and depth — then we really have nothing to discuss — because you have no clue about the history of music and the Blues. Clapton reinvigorated modern Blues in the UK and in the USA and it’s because of Clapton that Hugh Laurie is even able to try to sell a Blues album in the music business today. Read all the articles I wrote in this blog and then come back and post a comment about my learning and direct experience.

      I hope you enjoyed your Panera bread.

      1. I’m glad you merely called out his factual errors, because the spelling errors had my mind twisted there for a minute. Carrier? Really? 🙂
        And what’s with Panera Bread? Does it make you spell bad? LOL