This young man comes from a musical family and it shows. This is not his first recording, and this one is more fully realized than his earlier effort (Patuxent CD-261), taking his clawhammer banjo to new frontiers. He’s accompanied by three fiddlers—Nate Leath, Aila Wildman, and Andrew Vogts—the guitar playing of Danny Knicely, Eli Wildman’s mandolin and tenor guitar, and Sean Newman on bass. Knicely, Newman, and Aila Wildman also add vocals.
The program is made up of traditional tunes with seven somewhat adventurous originals, as well as the jazzy, dreamy “Heart Of Gold,” a poem written by Langston Hughes and set to music by Leyla McCalla. Furtado is not afraid to tackle a slower version of Flatt & Scruggs’ “If I Should Wander Back Tonight” or take his banjo to places few would dare to go. There are 16 tracks and no track is less than three minutes long, and many run in excess of five minutes. There’s a jam band mentality to much of the music that rivals the best bluegrass bands in this aspect. Furtado can take banjo through melodic and rhythmic territory that would stump lesser players. He is broadening the range of the clawhammer banjo as few can. Taking pages from the more progressive bluegrass banjo players, he’s challenging himself and raising the bar for those who dare to follow.
From the nearly traditional sounding rendition of the Roan Mountain Ramblers’ “Rattletrap” through the ’70s hippie groove version of “Elzic’s Farewell” to originals that stretch the imagination, we are treated to some very engaging music that reflects the increasing maturation of this young artist. Where his music will go next is certainly something to contemplate and anticipate as this trailblazer moves forward. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.)RCB