(These are cell phone photos; be kind.) This was something like WC’s fourth Tony Furtado show. WC has seen him solo, with the great Peter Mulvey and with a smaller backing band than he had last Thursday night in Boise. Each show has been terrific.
The venue was The Olympic in downtown Boise, a second floor walkup that reminded WC a little bit of a smaller version of Chicago’s Quiet Knight. The acoustics were good but not great; the crowd – at least the folks around us – were focused on the musicians and the music, and not bar chatter. Which is a bit unusual for a bar venue in Boise.
Dean! opened for Furtado. Dean! is Luke and Rachel Price, a husband and wife duo from Portland, Oregon. They were . . . okay. WC doesn’t know if it was nerves, a conscious choice or what, but they sounded a little strained. Luke Price is an outstanding fiddle player, but for their set he stayed on electric guitar. It’s an odd choice, because Luke Price’s fiddle work is very good, and when Rachel sang with Tony Furtado, she showed some serious blues chops. Her solo on “Stagger Lee,” for example, echoed of Janis Joplin.
Tony Furtado gave the crowd two sets, mostly backed by Luke Price on fiddle, Tyson Stubelek on drums and Keith Brush on electric bass. Price’s fiddle adds a lot to the musical mix, and gave Furtado someone to challenge his own very impressive skills. Over the course of the evening, Furtado played acoustic guitar, banjo, cello banjo, electric guitar and slide guitar. Furtado is outstanding on all of them. After all, in 1987, at the age of 20, he won the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship in Winfield, Kansas. And won again in 1991. His skills have only improved since.
Furtado fiercely resists being pigeon-holed as a musician. In the course of the evening, he performed a Scottish ballad, a handful of folk songs, blues, blue grass, ballads and more. His own songs are thoughtful, musically interesting and, in several cases, haunting. He and Luke Price performed brilliantly against each other. Maybe he can be described as performing “Americana,” but WC has never been sure what “Americana” means.
Regardless, Tony Furtado is an amazing artist and a terrific live act. If he’s near your town – and he tours a lot – you need to see him. Thanks for the great show, Tony; hope to see you in Boise again soon.