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Blues Round-up: Summer 2011

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Hugh Laurie, Ian Siegal & The Youngest Sons, Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band, Chantel McGregor and P-A-U-L

Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk

For Blackadder fans, Laurie’s early turns as a hard-bitten physician on House were watched with curled toes, always half-expecting the mug to camera and the fish-face: ‘Well, dash it it all, Bladder! Let’s damn the fellow’s britches and go to Mrs Miggins’ pie shop!’ His debut blues album, Let Them Talk, requires a still-greater suspension of disbelief. As Laurie concedes in likeable sleevenotes: ‘I am a white, middle-class Englishman’. Sensibly, he doesn’t pen original material; most of the tracklist is traditional, but judiciously chosen, fare like Battle Of Jericho and John Henry that implies this is no dilettante dabble. The revelation is Laurie’s performance. From the reflective tinkling of St James Infirmary to the bounce of Swanee River, he has a devotee’s lightness of touch, while the voice is arresting, soulful and only a little nasal. Not an actor in character, then, but a fan adding his thumb-print. So let them talk, sneer and snipe. Bertie Wooster has turned in a genuinely enjoyable blues album. (7/10)

Ian Siegal And The Youngest Sons: The Skinny

It’s an old story: British bluesman heads to the spiritual fatherland to jam with the locals, and returns sunburnt and squirming. Not so Siegal, who stands toe-to-toe with this crack squad of North Mississippi hill country players, and proves his furball vocal is a perfect fit on these Stateside-sounding cuts. (6/10)

Gerry Jablonski And The Electric Band: Life At Captain Tom’s

Jablonski has skirted the spotlight and flirted with fame in a string of misfiring bands, but solo suits him, ably demonstrated by these muscular, jutting-jawed, just-add-alcohol tracks. Structurally speaking, boogies like Sherry Dee are steady-as-she-goes, but the musicianship and vibe are clinically impossible to dislike. (6/10)

Chantel McGregor: Like No Other

A tip from News Editor Dave Ling brought like no other to our attention, and after a pumping, Gaga-esque opener, we saw his point. When McGregor gets bluesy, like on I'm No Good For You or the monumental slow-burner Daydream, this girl has the pipes and guitar chops to do a Joanne Shaw Taylor. Whether or not she actually wants to remains unclear. (5/10)

P-A-U-L: Tales From The Gravel

The ‘tourbus album’ is usually only of interest to those onboard, and P-A-U-L initially seems weighed down by the clichés, barking about ‘having the time of my life’ in that love-it-or-hate-it vocal. But things improve: Pistol Whipped Again is a stalking groove, Bite You does precisely that – and Joanne Shaw Taylor lends a stinger missile of a solo to We Believe. (5/10)

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