Throughout his touring career, Tony Furtado’s band lineups have fluctuated like August weather in Montana. Whether it’s included jazz, rock or bluegrass musicians, the one constant is that the spotlight has always been trained on Furtado’s singular slide guitar and banjo work. It was only during one segment of his full-band performances that Furtado would take the stage alone and wail (in his own subdued style) on his instruments. It was in response to this portion of his act that Furtado received many requests for a live solo album.
With Bare Bones, a full-length CD released this past March, Furtado’s fans got their wish. It includes original material, traditional Appalachian-flavored tunes, and a driving (seriously, get into your car with this one playing and see if you can obey traffic laws) interpretation of Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” Furtado’s understated singing contrasts with his staccato finger-picked notes, his long molasses-like syllables easing into the spaces between the punchy plucks. Making the album was relatively easy, according to the musician.
“I used the best songs from my strongest nights,” he said in a recent phone interview.
As far as performing solo, Furtado cites John Hartford as a major influence. Like Hartford, Furtado first learned to play bluegrass, then ultimately used what he’d learned from the genre to create his own style of music.
“Hartford was all about entertaining the crowd,” Furtado says. “He used his whole self to do it—and he was humble.”
Even with the copious talent in his fingers, Furtado remains humble, too, or at least savvy to what audiences want.
“If you use the stage as a show-off place to flex your muscles,” he notes, “people get bored.”
Still, Furtado is relishing the opportunity to bring his stripped-down act to Missoula for the first time next week. It’s something that may occur more often now that he’s relocated from Los Angeles to Portland.
“Playing solo I miss the chatter and the inside jokes with the band,” he says. “But musically, this has allowed me a lot more freedom.”
Tony Furtado plays The Other Side Thursday, Aug. 25, at 10 PM. $8.