Bentley's Bandstand: Hugh Laurie, Tommy Stinson, Bob Seger

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Hugh Laurie, Let Them Talk. New Orleans is such a seductive city it's almost impossible to withstand its allure, especially musically. It can suck in willing listeners, often for lifetime stints. Once that bug bites you, it don't let go. Hugh Laurie is one of its ecstatic victims. His passion for Crescent City sounds goes back to childhood. Laurie, like a lot of the English, simply could not resist the music of Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Smiley Lewis, and all the other characters running around that town with their hearts wide open and souls set to the stun position.

hugh-laurie-let-them-talk-sleeve-jpeg.pngFor Hugh Laurie, though, having the clout from playing Dr. House all those years on television, he can put his mouth where his money is and record this doozy of an album. The first smart move he made was to hire producer Joe Henry, a sonic shaman who knows when to err on the side of brevity while never failing to zero in on the magic. The small but sharp band on the songs lets Laurie shine, supplying the kind of accompaniment that recalls the French Quarter on a perfect fall afternoon, when every single molecule in the universe is dancing in an expression of endless harmony.

There is a timeless mojo surrounding "Tipitina," "Six Feet Cold," "They're Red Hot," and the other tracks that dance right out of the speakers. This isn't a retro blast though, even with the classic song selection and special guests like Dr. John, Irma Thomas, and, yes, Tom Jones, along with Allen Toussaint handling the horn arrangements.

Hugh Laurie is way too astute for that. While it takes a minute to adjust reality and not picture the actor walking the halls of his hospital spreading emotional destruction wherever he can, soon enough music wins out and we're in a backwater joint in the middle of the night swooning to the most wonderful music alive in the city that care forgot. Somebody give that crippled crab a crutch.

tommy_stinson_one_man_mutiny.jpgTommy Stinson, One Man Mutiny. Really and truly, this one-time Replacements bassist should have replaced Bill Wyman in the Rolling Stones. Nothing against the Brits choosing Daryl Jones to take that position, but they really missed the boat. Because if ever someone could have been a Stone, it was Stinson. He joined the 'Mats when he was only 12, and lived for rock and roll like only a few ever get to. Plus the rocker had the real attitude. He may be a generation or two behind Keith Richards, but no one ever came close to matching that swagger and soul like Tommy Stinson did. And lucky for us, he still does.

There are songs here for every occasion, from the Stoneseque knockabout of "It's a Drag" to the crushing ballad "Come to Hide." No one is writing or playing better rock right now than Tommy Stinson, and while he was never the frontperson in the Replacements, he kept the fires burning probably knowing it was only a matter of time before he'd have his chance. After his Bash & Pop and Perfect bands, One Man Mutiny puts him smack dab in the middle of the action, and he doesn't waste a moment.

It is said that we will all have our moments if we are patient and put in the time. Stinson never backed off, and no doubt had his dedication tested over and over. But that's rock 'n' roll for you: quitters need not apply to the profession. It's a life that chooses you, not the other way around. Minneapolis might be buried in snow when the young boy had to carry a bass taller than himself through it to practice in freezing basements; the light shined down on him and showed the way. The beauty of this new music proves that light never goes out if you believe. Tommy Stinson is a believer.

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Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Live Bullet. Detroit doesn't mess around. If you're going to play music there, you better be ready to deliver. Look at Motown. The house band was as good as it gets, masters of the universe who never slowed down. Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels: same thing. They burned through songs with the intensity of welding torches. The MC5 took rock to the extremes; the members who didn't flirt with death may as well have been prison bound. Iggy Pop: 'nuff said. Then there's Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, who may not have been quite as outre, but had a steel-hard demeanor in their rock and roll hearts.

BSE45853.jpgSeger could sing a bawling ballad, only to turn around and bend metal with his hands. His rugged voice carried the grit of the car plants, but he also had a way of getting inside his songs. "Beautiful Loser" was an instant chillbumper, the kind of hit that never wore out its welcome. He even had the guts to cover Van Morrison, always a risky propsect, not to mention Ike and Tina Turner.

This 1975 live album, recorded at the venerable Cobo Hall, could have been a Motor City pep rally it's so thick with hometown heat. The heavens lined up just right, showing Detroit Rock City more than earned its nickname on these two nights. Adding on the bonus track, a smoldering cover of Ann Pebbles' soul stomper "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home," is like putting dual mufflers on a Chevy Impala: it just doesn't get any finer.

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Bill Bentley got his first drum set in 1965 and still has it. He's been a deejay, record store clerk, publicist, writer, concert promoter, record producer and a&r director, sometimes all at once. He's worked at KUT-FM, Austin City Limits, L.A. Weekly, Slash Records, Warner Bros. Records and Vanguard…

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