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Some weeks back, friend of no notes Marc “Disquiet” Weidenbaum alerted me to a forthcoming version of “SJI,” from Hugh Laurie — a name, I must admit, that meant nothing to me. But as you may know, it’s a name that plenty of people do recognize, even if they don’t associate it with music: Laurie is an actor, probably best known (in the U.S.) as the star of the popular TV show House. His record, Let Them Talk, is billed as a blues collection, with an emphasis on New Orleans influences. Aside from “SJI,” he sings “Tipitina” and “Buddy Bolden’s Blues,” among others; guests on the record include Irma Thomas and Dr. John. (The best overview of the album I’ve seen is this Mail Online piece.) Albums recorded by actors-not-previously-known-for-singing frequently get knocked around in the press, or ignored. That does not appear to be the case with this one, at least in the UK. (It doesn’t seem to have been released in the U.S. yet, as I type this.)  The Yorker: “The first track, ‘St James Infirmary’, immediately shows the adeptness of Laurie’s musical nature. He makes the piano sing, life flowing out into the stillness of the moment, and a pleasure to listen to.” The Independent: “Usually, actors’ albums should be avoided as carefully as pop stars’ movies; but Hugh Laurie’s New Orleans tribute Let Them Talk may be the exception that proves the rule. “Apparently the public is going along with these views, putting Laurie, not long ago, into a UK chart battle with Adele! You can hear Laurie’s take on “SJI” here. It’s billed as being “in two parts,” lasting a total of nearly six and a half minutes. The first part is instrumental, largely focused on Laurie’s own piano playing, gradually joined by other instruments and working its way to a fairly bombastic (to my ears) crescendo; frankly the restrained guitar sounds better to me than the hammering piano. Then it pivots to the second part: a swingy approach, designed to highlight Laurie’s singing. The lyrics follow the most common pattern, no trickiness there — very straight. I like the arrangement in the second part better; Laurie’s voice is interesting, if not exactly charismatic (again, to my ears). Taken together it’s a very respectable version, but nothing I’d call special. By way of HughLaurieBlues.com, I also found this video in which Laurie and producer Joe Henry talk about their approach to “SJI,” apparently the first thing they recorded. It’s pretty standard “behind the scenes” fare, but Laurie is so serious, it’s really rather sweet:

Fire and destruction

Sorry for the melodramatic headline. But “coupla stray notes” didn’t seem adequate.

First: Shortly after returning from our trip to N.O. in connection with the very enjoyable Hypothetical Development Organization opening, I was pleased to receive in the mail the book Louisiana Rambles: Exploring America’s Cajun and Creole Heartland, by Ian McNulty. I managed to sped a bit of time with it this weekend, and enjoyed what I read quite a bit. There’s a piece about the holiday bonfires upriver (also subject of an essay in LfNO), and a nice travelogue about the Angola rodeo — something we attended and I always wish I had written about… but I never did. There are also several pieces about exploring the musical culture of regions around N.O. that I haven’t yet read but am really looking forward to, because those are adventures we never quite found time for during our time in the area.

Anyway I intend to make more use of Mr. McNulty’s observations and explorations on our next trip to Louisiana.

Second note: Another essay in LfNO, which I’ve referred back to often, concerned Claiborne Avenue and I-10. I’ve mentioned there’s talk of somehow reverting this area to some sort of pre-Interstate version of itself (presumably by destroying the freeway, that’s my excuse for the “destruction” headline), but I see from this T-P article that the current state of things is that a study is still being planned. There’s something very New Orleans about that…

THE HYPOTHETICAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION
“Implausible Futures For Unpopular Places”
Gallery Du Mois, 4921 Freret St., New Orleans
April 7 – May 7, 2011
Opening reception April 9

 

The project seems to pose the question: If we can dream this big on paper, then what else could happen?

–Mimi Zeiger, Design Observer: Places

The Hypothetical Development Organization presents a new form of urban storytelling — what Bruce Sterling calls “architecture fiction.”

Borrowing the form of the traditional real-estate development sign, H.D.O and its contributing artists devise and depict engaging, provocative, amusing, and above all implausible future uses for neglected-looking properties. Ten of these unlikely notions — The Museum of the Self, The Loitering Centre, the SnoozerDome, The Radtke Reading Room, Karmalot, and more — have appeared on 3’X5′ signs around New Orleans.

See all of them at Du Mois — plus two new, never-before-seen Hypothetical Developments.

Works by John Becker, Candy Chang, Mark Clayton, Carey Clouse, Michael Doyle, Mauricio Espinosa, Christina Hilliard, Kirsten Hively, Nicole Lavelle, Sergio Humberto Padilla, Dave Pinter, Lauren Stewart, Meg Turner, and the SVA Masters in Branding Class of 2011

Project founders G.K. Darby, Ellen Susan, and Rob Walker will be on hand at the opening, along with several of our contributing artists. Facebook Event page here: http://on.fb.me/HypoDevReception

As seen in Boing Boing: “Hypothetical Development Organization’s real estate fictions.” Good: “Fake Realtors Imagine Artistic Uses for Neglected Buildings.” NOLA Defender: “City of Memes.” And more: from PSFK, Swiss Miss, Core 77, Design Observer, Good Magazine, Josh Spear, Aesthetics of Joy, Archetizer, Huffington Post, Coudal.com, HiLobrow, Unbeige, Bookslut, The Architects Newspaper Blog.

“This must be the closest thing to an architecture-fiction ‘pure play’ to have yet appeared.” — Bruce Sterling

 

Images of renderings and installations here and here.

Downtown Soulville, DJ’ed by Mr. Fine Wine, rolls out its Mardi Gras Hangover show, an hour of N.O. soul 45s. Lotsa great stuff, listen here.

Via this recent comment on an earlier post: Here is a version I don’t remember having heard, evidently from 1969, by Jerry Reed. While it starts out with a pretty familiar arrangement, he really funks it up as he goes along. Super. Check it out.

“SJI” uke version

By the ever-popular Some Guy, but weirdly enjoyable. Gorgeous uke.

This hardly makes up for the melancholy fact that once again it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and only Tuesday where we live, but: I was pleased to hear, when listening to the latest episode of the excellent Sound Opinions, a snippet of “SJI.” Or rather, it was a snippet of Josh White’s variation on the tune, “Free and Equal Blues,” played during a long interview with the founder of Elektra.

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.