Roll My Blues Away
Bluegrass music has never resonated with me. All that plunkety-plunk lightning picking sounds the same after ten minutes, and all the great musicianship in the world can’t make up for what gets tedious too quickly. So I approached this two-time National Banjo Champion with requisite trepidation.
But Tony Furtado is a thoroughly different strain of bluegrass musician, and this album finds him pushing his boundaries deeper into blues and traditional American folk. Like Ry Cooder, one of Furtado’s major influences, his Delta-based fingerstyle is precise, defined, and intense in its simplicity. He replaces the banjo on most cuts here in favor of dobros, steel, and slide guitars, and when he interrupts the mostly instrumental album for an intense vocal from lap-steel maestro Kelly Joe Phelps (who has his own amazing album out) on the frighteningly edgy blues of “Boat’s Up The River,” it’s enough to send chills down into your toenails.
Like Leo Kottke, Furtado plays like a man possessed, and his shimmering slide guitar hits hard at the heart of acoustic blues. Faint percussion on some cuts heighten the spooky feel here, pushing the envelope waaaaaaay past any bluegrass I’ve ever experienced.
In Roll My Blues Away, Tony Furtado has crafted an acoustic folk album that shimmers with the lonesome mountain sound of traditional American folk, but is also infused with the heart, soul, and passion of the best-and deepest-Delta blues. Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140; http://www.rounder.com