Hugh Laurie & The Copper Bottom Band: New York, NY, September 10, 2012
"Thought I heard, Buddy Bolden say
You're nasty and dirty, take it away
You're terrible and awful, take it away
I thought I heard him say
Thought I heard, Buddy Bolden shout
Open up that window, and let that bad air out
Open up that window, and let that stinky air out
Thought I heard Buddy Bolden say."
A very blues-infused version of "Unchain My Heart" followed. The version put forth by Laurie and his band started slightly slower than the well-known Ray Charles version (as well as the more recent Joe Cocker version), and featured backing vocals by Sister Jean McClain, with call-and-response echoing. As the song moved forward the tempo picked up a bit and veered closer to the Ray Charles version. With the second tempo change and Henry blowing hard on the sax, the song really began to rock. Laurie's piano then slowed things down before speeding it up again and bringing it home. Laurie then announced that "Unchain My Heart" was a "song written by Bobby Sharp, who was a junkie. He sold it to a rather unscrupulous publisher. It took him fifty years to get his publishing rights back." He then chuckled and continued, "An interesting fact...Bobby Sharp published songs under the name B. Sharp. Speaking of heroin this is 'Junco Partner.'"
In the liner notes to Let Them Talk Laurie wrote, "I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s...I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman attended my birth and there's no hellhound on my trail, as far as I'm aware. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south." Yet his rocking' version of "Junco Partner" would have done James Booker proud.
Laurie then jumped up from the piano and, glancing across the stage, ran to his guitar, picked it up, strapped it on and said, with tongue placed firmly in cheek, that he "really couldn't play it that well but the salesman said it was slimming. This is an old Jimmy Rogers song; there aren't any new Jimmy Rogers songs." He then performed a perfect version of "Waitin' For The Train." When the applause died down, he remained at center stage and again addressed the crowd, "Were going to do another Jelly Roll Morton song. This is "Whinin' Boy Blues." With that, guitarist Kevin Breit and Piltch (on stand-up bass) came front-and-center and joined him while supplying some spine-tingling solos. Laurie's self-deprecating wit was again on display when he quipped, "I could do that stuff, but I choose not to." And the crowd erupted again.
The show continued with "Louisiana Blues" on which he was joined by Vincent Henry on harmonica and vocals and "John Henry," which featured lead vocals by Sister Jean McClain.
In what can be described as the classiest example (ever) of a musician taking a drink while onstage, Laurie took a moment to tell the story of how he and the band began christening each new venue they played by taking a drink of Macallan single malt scotch whisky. Suddenly, a roadie appeared with a tray full of shots which Laurie passed around the stage. The musicians then toasted each other and the audience. And then it was back to the music.
Laurie then really showed his musical chops on an instrumental tour de force which he introduced with, "Just me and Vincent left on this onea real old tune by Creamer and Layton called 'Dear Old Southland.'" Next up was "Wild Honey," the Dr. John tune on which current New Orleans piano rolls were introduced into the set. It was during this song that Bellerose was given an opportunity to shine. His short drum solo was exquisite: economical and tasty.