Tony Furtado

American Gypsy

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American Gypsy introduces itself with about 15 seconds of rumbling instrumental noise, the equivalent of an outsider orchestra tuning, before the opening blues figure of "Oh Berta, Berta" falls down from Tony Furtado's guitar. In those early moments, a new direction is named for Furtado, a bluegrass virtuoso and genre-bending master whose 1997 release, Roll My Blues Away, introduced his perfection of the slide guitar and move away from traditional roots-style composition. Loved by jam band enthusiasts, Furtado's improvisational picking takes the fore in "The Angry Monk," "Hartford," and the funk-tinged "Rising Fog." The epic tradition of "Staggerlee" is continued, with Furtado's steel guitar and multi-guitared pop rendition recalling electric Bob Dylan. "Tinker's Fancy" integrates Celtic melodies for the oddest instrumental moment, combining squeeze box, banjo, and hand percussion. The banjo-led cover of Mike Nesmith's "Some of Shelley's Blues" tones down the album's flashy soloing for a moment of reverie. That said, songs like "Rove Riley Rove" detract from Furtado's charm by proving overly sentimental, hugging the notes a little too long for critical ears. Elsewhere on the album, modern country elements mix with almost ambient warbling guitar, proving Furtado a capable and even-handed stylist. His "gypsy" tendencies have left the hills, taking tales into the big city with modern inflections and a serious mind to bringing out the greatest melodies of all time.

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