Tony Furtado

Bare Bones

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It always seems to create a certain amount of confusion when a multi-talented artist like Tony Furtado grows in a new direction. Once upon a time, he recorded instrumental banjo music for labels like Rounder, adventurous acoustic music for fans of David Grisman, Tony Rice, and Béla Fleck. A few years later, however, finds Furtado -- artistically speaking -- all over the map. Now, he also plays guitar (acoustic and electric), sings, writes, and performs in multiple styles. On 2005's Bare Bones, Furtado takes a step back from the eclectic hodgepodge of These Chains for a low-key concert album. True to the title, he backs his own vocals with acoustic and electric guitar and banjo over 11 tracks, producing a quiet and intimate album that reminds one a bit of Leo Kottke's later material. While Furtado sings more often than Kottke, he leaves extensive room for instrumental (mostly slide guitar) work on each song. While Bare Bones is a good live effort, one might argue that while Furtado is a decent enough singer/songwriter, he's a much better instrumentalist. Two of the strongest pieces on the album, in fact, are instrumental and, oddly enough, feature the banjo. The nearly seven-minute "I Will/Hazel Comes Home/Willow John" masterfully ties three separate pieces together, while "St. John's Fire/Bolinas" shows that Furtado can still give Fleck a run for his money. Bare Bones provides little clue where Furtado will go next as an artist, but for now, it does offer something -- solid songs and fancy picking -- for fans old and new.

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