Tony Furtado is no newbie to the recording game. With 16 albums to his name, the musician – who is known for his jaw-dropping, finger-picking stylings on both the slide guitar and banjo – has been through the process time and time again.
But album No. 17 – which is scheduled to drop this year – feels different, Furtado said. That’s because, after decades of working under labels, Furtado made his newest album, “The Bell,” free of the constraints of management, contracts or the direction or expectation of others.
“I got to present the music and make it sound the way I wanted to,” said Furtado, who finished recording the album last week in Portland. “It felt great.”
With the newfound freedom, Furtado said he brought his banjo back to center stage and married its sound with the baritone ukulele and his regular guitar, nestling that trifecta of noise amid the backdrop of fiddle, drums and tabla.
“It’s creating this really cool, lush sound,” he said.
The new creative freedom – coupled with some recent intense life experiences – have resulted in a deeply personal body of songs that he is psyched to share with audiences.
Furtado will do exactly that Thursday in Durango when the Tony Furtado Band plays a show at the Animas City Theatre.
Along with tracks from the new album, Furtado and bandmates Luke Price and Russ Kleiner will perform many of the intricate, progressive and polished Americana songs that have landed Furtado firmly in the realm of musician’s musician.
Furtado discovered the banjo at the age of 11 after he was given an assignment to make an instrument out of household items. He ended up researching the storied instrument and, after learning about its rich history, “fell in love with the instrument.” He begged his parents for a banjo for his 12th birthday and dove headfirst into learning how to play when they gave it to him.
At 19, Furtado entered himself and won his first of a pair of National Banjo Championship in Kansas. He went on to record several albums with Rounder Records, tour extensively, make a name with his envelope-pushing styles and collaborate with artists like Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas.
Along the line, Furtado added further dimension to his music both by taking up song-writing and picking up the slide guitar, on which he developed a rapid-fire and spellbinding picking style influenced by his time with the banjo.
Today, his name is synonymous with both banjo and slide guitar, and he is revered for his picking abilities on both. But like a good parent, Furtado refuses to play favorites.
“I love them both for different reasons,” he said. “The guitar is very vocal, very languid. There’s so much to do with it. And then the banjo is the banjo. It’s got endless possibilities. I’ve practiced it so much it’s kind of ingrained in me.”
After a couple of decades working under labels and touring extensively, Furtado got out of the label game, and his life recently took new turns with marriage, the loss of his father and the birth of a child. That set him up to create “The Bell” – which was funded by a kickstarter campaign – with a fresh set of inspirations and expression.
“I’ve never felt empowered in this position, where now, I finally do,” he said of recording the album. “I’m expressing something that’s really me.”