I used to dream of this city. This has been my Jerusalem- Hugh Laurie
In ITV's Down By the River documentary, Hugh Laurie’s journey “down the river into the heart of lightness” begins in a two-seater plane, guided to a smooth landing by Laurie himself. This isn't Hollywood, where Laurie lives when he's playing the iconic Dr. Gregory House. Nor is it London, the land he considers his true home. We are in Fredericksburg, Texas, the first leg on this extraordinary trip of musical self-discovery. Laurie invites us into the passenger seat of the red 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 he’s purchased especially for this journey, and off we go.
To the strains of Professor Longhair’s Mardi Gras In New Orleans, we travel alongside Laurie as he immerses himself in the music of the land. In Austin, we visit an establishment called Maggie Mae’s where we are treated to a performance by Miss Lavelle White, a blues singer of the first order. She wails out a Jimmy Reed song as the band and Laurie accompany her. Laurie looks like he’s never had so much fun.
Traveling on, Laurie offers a few words of wisdom against classifying music. “There are only two types of music: good and bad. “Everything else is just indexing”. He sits in with a guitar picking circle in Luckenbach, where anyone can join. “All you need is a guitar...and a hat”. Equipped with both, he strums his acoustic and grins, content to let the other players take the spotlight. He is learning. Soaking it in. Reveling in the music, culture and camaraderie.
Throughout the film, Laurie supplies anecdotes about his favorite musicians and tells the stories behind their songs. He is well versed in blues lore and to hear him go on about his passion is a joy. But he does have an ulterior motive, and that is to inspire those who never had an interest in blues music to seek out recordings by the masters: Leadbelly, J.B. Lenoir, Leroy Carr and Professor Longhair to name a few.