Larry Carlton’s name should be familiar to anyone who’s paid attention to the credits on album jackets over the past five decades: As a prominent, in-demand session guitarist, his work has appeared on hundreds of key recordings by a lengthy list of headliners including Steely Dan, the Crusaders, Fourplay, Joni Mitchell, and many others. In addition, he’s released a few dozen albums as leader or co-leader. Paul Brown, although not as well-known, is another prolific guitarist, having contributed to dozens of top radio hits, as well as building a reputation for his production and engineering work.
Carlton and Brown have collaborated in the past, and for some time the pair have looked for a window when they could make some new music together. Soul Searchin’, 10 instrumental workouts, is the result. When it cooks, which is about half the time, it really cooks; the rest of the time, the jams lie flat, superb musicianship in search of a spark. “Miles and Miles to Go,” the opening track, falls into the latter category. Carlton and Brown are obviously superb players, and they quickly establish a rapport here; their respective choices as soloists are commendable and the blend is sweet. Their support team, particularly Shane Theriot, who plays both keys and bass on the tune and co-wrote several tracks on the album, is never short on chops. But the easy-gliding piece, along with a handful of others here, never really gets off the ground.
That’s not the problem with “Gone Fishin’,” a tough boogie, or “Keep Truckin’ On,” co-written by Little Feat bassist Kenny Gradney, who also plays on the track. Here and in a few other spots, Carlton and Brown catch a solid groove and work it hard. Soul Searchin’ could have used a little more of that.