Laurence Juber – Fingerboard Road (2015)

A new take on “Go Now” from Laurence Juber’s imaginatively titled new album Fingerboard Road closes the circle on his history with Paul McCartney. After all, long before the song became a signature element of this spirited solo guitar project, the old Moody Blues hit provided Juber with a pathway into Wings.

Seems Laurence Juber was at work as a sessions musician on David Essex’s television show in 1977 when Wings’ Denny Laine — the original voice on that long-ago Moodies hit — visited the program. Juber not only provided a new arrangement for the old favorite, he added an inventive new solo. Laine remembered Laurence Juber’s turn when Wings later needed a new guitarist, and recommended him to McCartney. That subsequently led to appearances on a pair of Top 5 stand-alone singles in “Goodnight Tonight” and “Coming Up,” as well as Wings’ too-often-overlooked 1979 album Back to the Egg.

His best solo albums, and Fingerboard Road is certainly one of them, tend to bring in every thread in what’s since become an intriguing career tapestry for Laurence Juber. After Wings, Juber rapidly expanded his musical vocabulary on the guitar, becoming a master of solo fingerstyle playing — even while collaborating with Al Stewart, earning a Grammy for a reworking of Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme,” and performing the theme for a Bond film.

And so, we have “Go Now,” with its direct lineage to Wings, but also a trio of originals and a series of broadly intriguing cover choices on Fingerboard Road. Juber begins with a song titled “Without Annette,” written for an improv-workshop play composed by his wife Hope that smartly echoes that kind of wide open, fizzy atmosphere; the title track, with its spritely, ragtime feel; and a live bonus cut called “Love at First Sight.”

All of them, in ways large and small, point to a new-found freedom for Laurence Juber, a willingness to move well outside of the structured feel of his earlier albums. The remaining songlist on Fingerboard Road happily swings between, say, a Hoagy Carmichael songbook item like “Georgia on my Mind” and the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” That tends to play right into his more free-form approach, giving the project a loose, upbeat, endlessly curious feel.

The 62-year-old Juber may have been on this road for some time, but you’ll still find him with his foot pressed firmly on the gas.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso