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Tony Furtado
Bare Bones
Funzalo Records

Those that know me know that I'm not a big fan of hippy music, or jam bands. And so I have always avoided going to see the Tony Furtado Band live, as I knew I would be in for a night of extended jamming and such nonsense. But at the same time, I have always held it inside of my head that Furtado himself was a great guitar player and a more than sufficient songwriter. So when I found out that he was releasing a disc of songs recorded live, just him and an acoustic guitar, I jumped at the chance to check it out. I was certainly not disappointed, as Tony's guitar playing has only gotten more soulful, as well as more technically proficient, over the years. The heart of good music is in good songs, and those that were chosen for inclusion on Bare Bones are among his own best, as well as some brilliant covers and traditional standards.

Kicking off the record with "These Chains" is somewhat prophetic, as the blues heavy slide guitar work perfectly sets the mood for the remainder of the album. The only guest appearance on the recording is found here with the incomparable Susan Marshall lending her hauntingly resonant voice to the song to build the depth of tension and beauty. The instrumental "The Angry Monk" is a dirgey, beautiful instrumental that morphs seamlessly into the great story of "Raleigh And Spencer", filled with tragedy and remorse. "Standing In The Rain" is one of Furtado's finest songs, and this version focuses much more on the beauty of the song itself, rather than what a full band can bring to a production. This song is pure and true, full of heart - a standout of the neo-folk movement. Furtado's cover of Tom Petty's "Running Down A Dream" is much more listenable than the original - even though it seems an odd pick to play - and is filled with that great slide guitar/fingerpicking guitar style for which he is best known. The slowdown of "Can You Hear The Rain" makes for a nice break from the almost bluegrass hop of most of Bare Bones; the track is melancholy and beautiful, full of delicately resonant slide playing. Truly, this song is a standout for me.

"Rove Riley Rove" is what got me interested in this album in the first place, and no matter how many times I listen to it, I am still filled with the jumpy sense of joy that I got when I first listened. This song has a personal connection for me, as I have some childhood memories associated with it, but this version is the most amazing I've ever heard. The night this was recorded, Furtado was obviously in sync with the audience as only a great performer can be. The energy of the song is amazing, as is the talented playing of Tony Furtado. This song's much more Travis style picking and jangling slide playing lend a bluegrass feel to the melancholy of the song, creating a nice juxtaposition of style and mood. Switching to his banjo, Furtado delivers a nice instrumental treat with The Beatles' "I Will" coupled into a medley with his own "Hazel Comes Home" and "Willow John". The wickedly syncopated version of the classic "Cypress Grove Blues" makes a nice closing to a record full of intricate guitar playing and beautifully moody and soulful music.

So perhaps I've been wrong these years. Per chance I should give Tony Furtado another chance live, and drag my sorry old self out to see him next time he's in town. If I got to experience just half of what has been archived on this solo record, the trip would be well worth it.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. These Chains
2. The Angry Monk/ Raleigh And Spencer
3. Standing In The Rain
4. St. John's Fire/ Bolinas
5. Running Down A Dream
6. Can You Hear The Rain
7. False Hearted Lover's Blues
8. Rove Riley Rove
9. Oh Berta, Berta
10. I Will/ Hazel Comes Home/ Willow John
11. Cypress Grove Blues

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