"American Gypsy’ takes Furtado to next level | VailDaily.com

"American Gypsy’ takes Furtado to next level

Wren Wertin

“American Gypsy” is arguably Furtado’s best album to date, as all the tracks are unified in vision: rootsy, funky, a wee bit naughty.

Furtado made his name in the music world with the banjo, and he’ll never give that up. But his current passion – and the drive behind “American Gypsy” – is the slide guitar.

The 13-track album swings from rhythmic grit to lyrical pensiveness, and won’t let the listener leave easily. In addition to playing acoustic and slide guitars and banjo, Furtado provides the lead vocals on the four tracks that have lyrics. (They, plus a medley of traditional Irish tunes, are the only songs Furtado didn’t write.)

“Oh Berta, Berta,” the opening track, gives a clue as to what we’re in for: a gradual build, the dirty slide, a thumping beat. It evolves into a song filled with frenetic percussive energy. Directly on its heels is “The Angry Monk,” a Furtado original, and features him on both the slide and banjo, leapfrogging with himself. The title begs a question, as there’s nothing particularly angry or sanctified about the song – just a good, grooving ride.

Perhaps the sweetest song on the album is “Some of Shelly’s Blues,” a banjo-steeped love plea that doesn’t beg but keens. And “Rising Fog” lays down the law with its full sound and jazz beats.

The emphasis on drums is felt widely throughout the whole album, as Furtado explores new rhythmic territory. It seems like his newest way to challenge himself – changing the top melody based on what’s going on underneath. All in all, even banjo die-hards such as myself will be wooed by “American Gypsy.” Its organic, funky sound is still the essence of Furtado, filled with movement.

New for Furtado, he’s touring with most of the musicians who played on the album: Gawain Mathews (electric guitar), Tom Brechtelein (drums), Paul McCandless (penny whistle, horns) and Matt Spencer (bass).

Mathews is a live-show staple with his deft fingers and honest approach. Drum guru Brechtelein (Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Natalie Cole, Robben Ford) likes to keep everyone on their toes, pushing the songs into unexpected territory. McCandless (Oregon, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) is almost coy on stage, breaking out multiple instruments at the same time and musically regaling the audience. Spencer (Motet) was recently in Edwards with the Mitchell Long Quartet, playing Brazilian jazz with his own funky twist.

It’s a strong line-up in support of a strong album. The show will be non-smoking, and starts at 10 p.m. at Half Moon Saloon in West Vail. For more information call 476-4314.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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