Mixing elements of Ry Cooder's American R&B pickin', Bela Fleck's bluegrass-jazz fusion, and Kelly Joe Phelps' dusty folk-Delta blues (Phelps also contributes high-profile vocals to three tracks), accomplished banjo player and guitarist Tony Furtado pushes all sorts of stylistic envelopes on this indie release. From the moody Americana of a rearranged "Raleigh and Spencer" to an album-closing version of Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home," Furtado's vision stays focused as he peels off intricate and often lightning-fast riffs, yet never lets his obvious technical excellence overwhelm a song's melodic structure. Also impressive is the crystal-clear sound of this album, featuring an airy, uncluttered mix where all the unplugged instruments (including Darrel Anger's fiddle, tablas, Uilleann pipes, accordion, and sax) sound like they're in your room playing simultaneously. Furtado shifts from jazzy interludes to Celtic, bluegrass, and C&W styles with effortless poise, never needlessly grandstanding but keeping the spotlight on his immaculate picking and phenomenal backing musicians. As accomplished on guitar as on banjo (his primary instrument), the picker adds only what is needed to the songs, keeping them sparse yet filled with interesting twists and angles. The upbeat Leo Kottke-styled instrumental "Fat Fry on the Hog Farm" and the beautifully languid ballad "O Amante" are two of the album's six original compositions that show Furtado is as accomplished a songwriter as musician and arranger. Unpretentious and classy as its low-key cover art, this is a consistently winning album that shows off Tony Furtado's eclectic talents as master string picker, bandleader, vocalist, and composer.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz