Furtado goes live in new CD
After Tony Furtado got off stage at Keystone’s Park Lane Pavilion in August, a fan wowed by the show wanted to know which Furtado album to buy.
Furtado was standing by his mailing list and a bevy of his wares and pointed to “Live Gypsy.”
A month later the album was released to the public – Furtado’s first live album and first recording with his new (and semi-rotating) lineup, which features Myron Dove on bass, Paul McCandless on horns and flutes, John Burr on keys and Tom Brechtlein on drums.
Furtado came to Keystone with a slightly different lineup that included Gawain Mathews on electric guitar, and the last track of “Live Gypsy” features that lineup.
In true gypsy fashion, Furtado – lead vocals, banjo, acoustic and electric slide guitar – has made a point to play with a lot of different musicians, and it has diluted his sound a little bit. But “Live Gypsy” does effectively bring the energy of Furtado’s live show to record, and that wide-eyed fan from Keystone was likely pleased with his purchase.
The album opens with Dove’s bass driving an upbeat version of “False-Hearted Lover’s Blues.” McCandless quickly comes in with his high-pitched flute – almost a fife – and Furtado leads with the electric slide guitar.
His voice takes a bit of getting used to – it’s kind of a whine in that white-boy-blues sort of way. Then there’s the vague Irish accent that goes well with the heavy Celtic influence of Furtado’s roots, folk and blues. But it seems a little forced.
The power of this record is in the instrumentation: the deep grooves of “False-Hearted Lover’s Blues” and “Oh Berta Berta,” the jaunty banjo of “Hartford” and “Bottle of Hope” and the furious solos of Furtado on the slide and banjo and McCandless on the horns.
As soloists, Furtado and McCandless share a vision, and it’s no coincidence they ended up playing together. They both enjoy speed and crescendos, and they like to start solos by harping on one note or idea, continually going back to it until the music can barely take it any more and pushes them forward.
Make no mistake, this is a jam band, but one with an uncommon connection to real folk, blues and Celtic music. It’s rendition of “Staggerlee” toward the end of the album stands out. The song, which has been performed by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt to Neil Diamond, fits Furtado’s style well. But his version omits some important details of the story, such as Delia’s entrance as the heroine. But each version of this song is different, and Furtado’s uses good judgement in choosing from the various traditional renditions of “Staggerlee” the line, “Could’ve been on a rainy morning, could’ve been on a rainy night,” to bookend the song.
Sometimes, especially for folk and blues players, good judgement in borrowing from the tradition is as satisfying as good original writing. That is definitely the case with Furtado.
These tracks were recorded during the months of February, April and May of 2002, just after Furtado, a northern California native, had moved from Boulder to Oregon. But he was playing Colorado a lot during that time – as he still does – and some of these tracks were likely taken from Colorado shows.
After his move, he changed his band name from the Tony Furtado Band to Tony Furtado and the American Gypsies, and he currently tours as the latter. “Live Gypsy” is a solid effort at showcasing what happens on stage when Furtado and the gypsies get together.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 248 or at
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