Larry Carlton – Fingerprints

Larry Carlton
(Warner – 2000)
by Ricky Miller

Fingerprints Larry Canton’s eloquence and style are in rare form on Fingerprints, his homecoming solo album on Warner Records. This is also his twentieth album as a solo artist, and it displays the depth and range of expression that has garnered him seven Grammy nominations, two Grammys, a spot on Hollywood’s Rockwalk, a NARAS Player Emeritus award and countless gold and platinum albums.

Fingerprints’ ten tracks were all written or co-written by Carlton with the exception of one track composed by Paul Brown with Allen Hines. Brown also produced four of the album’s ten compositions and co-wrote two with Larry (including the title-track that also serves as the first single), the balance being produced by Canton himself. The album features some captivating musical conversations with friends and fellow artists: Michael McDonald, Vince Gill, Matt Rollings, Abraham Laboriel and Kirk Whalum, as well as backup by legendary percussionists Lenny Castro, Luis Conte and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, among others.

Fingerprints comprises a richly diverse genre-bending and blending adventure, soundly demonstrating why Larry Canton is often referred to as the “guitarist’s guitarist.” His seemingly effortless command of his instrument, subtle inflections, alluring nuances and mastery of boundless musical styles is classic Canton.

The album opener, title track and lead-off single emerged unexpectedly, when Larry felt a song that had been slated for the album just didn’t trigger the necessary inspiration. Paul Brown had another basic track with him, which he played. Larry recalls, “I made up the melody and came up with a hook and we both started smiling. It was finished in an hour and I was so glad that I had spoken up.” Brown also produced the lovely and laid-back “Silky Smooth” and “All Thru The Night.”

Another magical moment came when Larry was working on the power ballad “Til I Hurt You” with Tennessee neighbor Michael McDonald. “Mike and I are obviously old friends. I had cut `Minute By Minute’ in ’87, and we knew each other many years before that. We’d talked about Mike being involved in my next project, so we got together for the first time to write a song. Mike was sitting at the keyboards, singing, or mumbling, and coming up with a feel. He stopped at one point and I asked, `Did you say, “til I hurt you?”‘ and he said, `Yeah, I think I did.’ And I said, `I like that. It’s different.’ So we just responded to each other, sitting in the studio, composing the song …and we really love it!” The deeply affecting words and music of “Til I Hurt You” is bound to cross formats with its equal parts of pop, jazz and soft-rock augmented by McDonald’s signature vocals, Canton’s inimitable guitar and Jerry Hey’s horns.

“Slave Song” is one more stellar collaboration. “I co-wrote it with one of my favorite musicians in the whole world,” enthuses Carlton. “His name is Matt Rollings and he’s the number one session keyboard player in Nashville. He’s also a Berklee graduate and toured for many years with Lyle Lovett, when he was starting out. I really wanted to write some songs with Matt and when we came up with the theme for that tune, the chorus reminded me of way back in the 1800s; somehow it brought an image to my mind of the slaves… so I named it `Slave Song.”‘

One of the album’s most arresting and intricate compositions is a guitar duet, penned and produced by Carlton and performed with country great Vince Gill. “Vince and I talked last year about doing something together when my new album came out. He was available and wanted to do it, so I wrote the tune with him in mind and called it `Gracias’ as my way of, every time I play it, saying thanks to Vince for joining me.”

Labelmate Kirk Whalum joins Carlton on the fanciful and feisty “Chicks With Kickstands.” “It’s a loop kind of tune that I wrote early in the project-a shuffle,” says Carlton. “It’s one of the more unique compositions, and it’s got a section in the middle where Kirk plays a real soulful sax.” Canton modestly fails to mention that he supplies some extra sexy soloing on the album’s most playful and energetic track.

“Lazy Susan” displays Carlton front and center in a fusion of feeling and finesse that owes its title to Larry’s manager, Susan, who suggested Canton could name a song after her. With characteristic good humor, Larry said, “I got it… `Lazy Susan.”‘

Two of the album’s most emotionally evocative and engaging melodies, “Crying Lands” and “The Storyteller,” complete the list of tracks.