Thirteen – Tony Furtado
Two years ago, Tony Furtado took a creative leap by adding singer/songwriter to his resume. For more than a decade prior to this, the guitarist weaved stellar melodic threads with other musicians, but the challenge of being a lyricist and singer caused this longtime instrumentalist to change his focus. On Thirteen, he takes matters several steps further — as a songwriter, arranger and player. He continues to create fully fleshed-out material while adding the twist of shaping the songs to exist within the thematic parameters of luck good, bad and none — over the album’s 13 tracks. He comes up with a set of originals that contain the appreciation and bitterness that exist according to what life offers you. On the negative side, there’s the frank yet refreshingly bitter “Another Man,” and the beautiful melancholy contained on “I Wait For This,” while better feelings arrive in the form of “Stay Awhile” and “Long Journey Home.”
Furtado has made strides as a lyricist and with a crack band behind him that has the experience of working with Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Calexico, Lucinda Williams, Uncle Tupelo and Iron & Wine. The music maintains a tautness that can be heard from Tom Petty and John Hiatt at their best.
The only problem with Thirteen is that it only features 10 original numbers. A cover of Elton John’s "Take Me to the Pilot" has a rhythmic bounce to it that agrees with the musical mood on the rest of Thirteen, but taking on The Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s "Fortunate Son" suffer from this approach. What’s missing from the two songs is that they lack the righteous anger of the originals. Furtado may have chosen them due to their relation to his album’s theme and the current political climate, but it makes no sense that he doesn’t embrace the cynicism of "Fooled Again" and "Fortunate Son." Instead, the lack of passion dilutes the songs’ powers.
And while I’ve become impressed with Furtado’s craftsmanship, I still miss his instrumental jams as the ones that can be found on Live Gypsy. He gives someone like me something to hold on to via the track “Sevens.” Obviously, he’s become more comfortable in this singer/songwriter genre. His tunes have a strong sense of time and place and, most importantly, bring us to the heart of its characters.