• author
    • Kate Laddish

    • October 8, 2015 in Columnists

    Atmospheric banjo music? Tony Furtado finds a way on The Bell

    Bright, fast and twangy are how most people think of banjo. But banjo champ, multi-instrumentalist and roots music omnivore Tony Furtado finds a new, nuanced, more down-right atmospheric voice for his native instrument on his newest release “The Bell.”

    Furtado is currently touring nationally in support of his new album. Two-time Grand National Fiddle Champion Luke Price will accompany Furtado at selected dates.

    Furtado started his career as a teenager winning two National Bluegrass Banjo Championships, earning him a reputation as a banjo prodigy and a place in Laurie Lewis’ band Grant Street. Able to play both blazingly fast and soulfully, Furtado appeared poised for a bluegrass-based career.

    But that career path wouldn’t take Furtado’s eclectic enthusiasms and other talents into account. No sooner had he won a place in bluegrass banjo than he also mastered slide guitar (and slide banjo) and started adding elements of Celtic and American folk, rock and more to his sound.

    “I don’t think I could ever be happy staying in any one place musically,” he said. “I think I was kind of doomed to be a multi-genre player from the start.”

    In addition to his own 10+ albums, Furtado’s collaborations include projects with Allison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Kelly Joe Phelps and Dirk Powell.

    Cover image of “The Bell” (courtesy of Tony Furtado)

    Cover image of “The Bell” (courtesy of Tony Furtado)

    After years of musical exploration, Furtado’s recently-released CD “The Bell” finds him gravitating back to the banjo. Furtado being Furtado, though, there is a twist: the deeper sound of the cello-banjo is a hallmark of this album, lending a air of brooding mystery to many of the songs.

    Furtado says “The Bell” is “the most personal album of my career,” and it features songs written during an intense period in which his father died, his son was born and Furtado left his record label and management.

    Furtado’s writing is just general enough that listening to the album doesn’t have the awkward feel of stumbling into a diary. Furtado is at his strongest when he lets the arrangements of the songs carry the emotions. “Broken Bell,” for example, has a stormy muscularity, “Give Me Your Soul” is driven by an energetic undercurrent of anger and the instrumental “Iowa” has an air of sunny contentment.

    Furtado’s current run of CD release shows will feature Furtado on banjo, cello-banjo, guitar and vocals. Luke Price, who is a two-time and currently reigning Grand National Fiddle Champion, will accompany Furtado at select dates. Like Furtado, Price is musically restless and has a reputation as an inventive guitarist in addition to talented fiddler.

    For more information, visit tonyfurtado.com and the venues’ websites.

    Tony Furtado’s up-coming tour dates:
    October 8: The Palms Playhouse, Winters, CA (with Luke Price) http://palmsplayhouse.com
    October 9: Pilgrim Congregational Church, Redding, CA (with Luke Price) http://oaksongs.org
    October 10: KC Turner Presents, San Francisco, CA http://kcturnerpresents.com
    October 11: Firehouse Arts Center, Pleasanton, CA http://www.firehousearts.org/
    October 14: Tales from the Tavern, Santa Ynez, CA https://talesfromthetavern.com/
    October 15: Winston’s, San Diego, CA http://www.winstonsob.com/
    October 16: House Concert, Santa Paula, CA
    October 17: Boulevard Music, Culver City, CA http://www.boulevardmusic.com/
    October 18: Don Quixote’s, Felton, CA http://www.donquixotesmusic.info/
    November 15: Woodrow Wilson Auditorium, Beckley, WV (taping of Mountain Stage radio show with Tim O’Brien, Old Man Luedecke, Jonathan Edwards, Session Americana, Anna & Elizabeth) http://www.mountainstage.org/
    November 20: Cider Gallery, Lawrence, KS http://cidergallery.com
    November 28: Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR http://www.mississippistudios.com/
    November 29: Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA http://www.tractortavern.com/

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