You can't listen to Victor Furtado without acknowledging his youth. His debut self-titled CD displays his clawhammer banjo style, and he's really good. Bluegrass music resonates tradition, but depends on new and younger players to pick up the thread and spin their own work. Jerry Douglas was a mere 16 when he first signed on with the Country Gentlemen in the early 70's. Ricky Skaggs, now, 50 years on, played "Ruby" with Bill Monroe when he was 6. On Chris Thile's first record, issued when he was still in Little League, he sported a Chicago Cubs hat. Sierra Hull, another fine mandolinist, burst on the scene in her early teens.
Furtado, 15, takes up the baton. He lays the foundation for his case by starting with tried and true public domain tunes that all bluegrass players cut their teeth on. Furtado has the good sense to surround himself with outstanding bluegrass veterans, including Nate Leath on fiddle, Mark Schatz on bass and Danny Knicely standing in on guitar. The album opens with an ensemble piece displaying the group ("Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss") and then straightaway features Furtado on the banjo on "Bonaparte Crossing The Rhine." There is nice pace and playfulness to the tunes that may have you reaching for your own instrument to play along.
"Durang's Hornpipe," another public domain staple, features Furtado's strong picking and melodic runs. By the time "Shove The Pig's Foot A Little Further In The Fire" comes to its rousing end, Furtado has made his case as an accomplished banjo player. He then seizes the instrument by the neck and shows his own style, offering up "The Ghost On Hippie Hill," a Furtado song that tears through to the end.
"Dark Rider," written by Nancy Leinbach over a quarter century ago, displays Furtado's chops, as does a startling companion piece, Fiddlin' Arthur Smith's "Florida Blues." "The Peace of The Woods," the album's end piece and another Furtado composition, is his closing statement - that he is a banjo force for the 21st century.