The biggest surprise comes when Laurie and company turn the familiar on its ear. “Swanee River” becomes an all-out piano-pounding foot stomper. And the gospel rave up “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” along with the fabulously funky “Tipitina," are two more welcome respites from the sense of melancholy that prevails on the album.
Tom Jones, Irma Thomas and — Laurie’s hero — Dr. John, are the record’s musical star power; and as a testament to Laurie’s well documented artistic generosity, each has a track pretty much to themselves. Tom Jones’ “Baby, Please Make a Change,” Irma Thomas’s “John Henry” and “Dr. John’s “After You’ve Gone” are all fine, but seem like they could have been taken from entirely different albums. Although Laurie is the backup singer and pianist on these songs, it would have been more in keeping with the overall feel of the record had he actually sang a chorus or two on his guests' tracks.
Mention must be made of Joe Henry, whose production is sparse yet fantastically effective; and Allen Toussaint, who constructs some punchy brass arrangements. There are no overdubbed strings, no synthesized keyboards. The band — Jay Bellerose (drums), David Piltch (bass), Greg Liesz (guitar, dobro, mandolin), Patrick Warren (keys), and Kevin Briet (guitar, tenor sax, mandolin) — make up a tight unit, and Laurie’s wonderful piano stylings complete the musical picture. The record has an intimate, “live in your living room” feel.
“If people can rediscover these [blues] geniuses thanks to me, I’d be happy,” Laurie said in a recent interview. With Let Them Talk, he may just get his wish.
Let Them Talk can currently only be ordered from France but will have a wider release on May 9th.