To call Tony Furtado a virtuoso on the guitar and banjo would be an understatement. Sure, he has won a few national competitions for banjo. Sure, he is a master slide guitarist. But to simply point out his technical skills is to miss what makes him special. Furtado has a way of making his stringed instruments sing in a way few can. Whether a solitary line or played over harmonic fingerpicking, whether fast or slow, his melodies ring out with moving clarity and beauty. His performance paired with Cookie’s expert recording sensibilities is a match made in heaven. The signature warmth and fullness you hear in any Blue Coast recording is crucial here in helping highlight the beauty of Furtado’s playing and the fundamental beauty in the sound of a guitar and a banjo. Cookie sets the stage, and Furtado, the master he is, takes it away from there. There is no editing or overdubbing. What we get is, quite simply, a brilliant “live in the studio” performance by Furtado.
Firecracker offers a diverse range of styles, a testament to Furtado’s ability to excel in anything from lighting fast bluegrass to tender, slow ballads. The album opener, “Angeline The Baker” is a rush of bluegrass guitar energy. As Furtado blazes through precise fingerpicking, his melodies never get lost even amidst the onslaught of furious notes. Third track, “ Song For Early” is a slow and beautiful ballad, and one of the songs that most clearly demonstrates Furtado’s ability to make his guitar to sing, almost like a human voice. He ebbs and flows through the heartfelt melody, never in a hurry, as if savoring each note. On “Bolinas,” he brings this same energy this time to his banjo. Highlighting the unique timbre of the instrument, his melodies ring out clear and true, and there are moments that you’ll savor with delight.