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Tony Furtado plies his skills

Home of Steve and Sara Brown, Lincoln, MA, December 13, 2012

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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This wasn't exactly like opening up for the Greg Allman Band, which acoustic guitarist/banjo man Tony Furtado did once upon a time. But Furtado and the crowd of about 50 people in the living room of the house concert in this bucolic, wealthy community seemed to enjoy themselves just fine in the low key setting.

Furtado, a cutting figure with his bald pate, alternated between acoustic guitar and banjo. He was quick with the fingers no matter what he played, but it wasn't as if Furtado was a speed merchant getting paid by the lick. He smartly reshuffled the musical deck sufficiently to sustain the interest level. For Furtado, that meant bluegrass, blues, acoustic and country sounds coming to the fore.

Although Furtado does pen his own material, this 95-minute show was heavy on covers, starting with Stagger Lee to a neat banjo instrumental of The Beatles' Will (his original take on it had a then much younger Alison Krauss backing him up) to a song done by the Grateful Dead Peggy O (which had the crowd singing along) to originals. Furtado's own Portlandia (based on a sculpture in Portland, Ore. where he lives, not the TV show) showcased his bluegrass skills. His dexterity throughout was quite fine, making song after song sound fresh and vibrant.

Furtado's vocals tended to be on the lighter, more airy side. In covering Tom Petty's Runnin' Down a Dream, for example, Furtado was far more tender than the original. He proved touching on his own Angels We Know, a tribute to a late Little Rock, Ark. concert promoter.

The only misstep for Furtado was his inability to recall the words to Michael Nesmith's (he of The Monkees' fame) Some of Shelly's Blues. Try though he did, Furtado could not, but when he converted the song into an instrumental, it clicked just fine. Too bad because the rest of the night showcased Furtado's varied talents.

Free of a label deal with a small Arizona outfit, Furtado has reached the stage of other artists of similar vintage of "where do I go next?" While he sorts that out, one thing that has remained constant over a two-decade plus career has been Furtado's skill set - no matter what the setting.