An accomplished banjo and slide guitar player whose music incorporates elements of folk, blues, jazz, and rock, Tony Furtado has earned a loyal following through enthusiastic reviews, equally appreciative word of mouth, and nearly constant touring, playing as many as 250 dates a year. Born in Pleasanton, California on October 18, 1967, Furtado became interested in music as a child, building his first makeshift banjo when he was just nine years of age. Soaking up the influences of bluegrass, folk, jazz, and classic rock, Furtado became a respected amateur picker, and while studying art and music at Cal State Hayward, he traveled to Kansas on a whim and entered the Grand National Banjo Championship. Furtado won, and his musical reputation soared among the bluegrass community. Furtado went out on the road with Laurie Lewis and Grant Street, playing bluegrass and old-time music. This musical trail led him to ink a deal with Rounder Records, which released his debut solo record, Swamped, in 1989.
Furtado continued touring and recording music, playing with some of his favorite artists such as Béla Fleck and Earl Scruggs. He released Within Reach in 1992 with the help of bluegrass luminaries Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Stuart Duncan, and David Grier, and headed out on the road in support of the record, as well as touring and cutting an album with Sugarbeat, a folk-funk-acoustic-bluegrass band.
Furtado's eclectic approach in playing swing, jazz, Celtic folk, and old-timey music won him comparisons to Ry Cooder's early-'70s recordings, and also earned him a following in the jam band community. Released in 1994, Full Circle marked Furtado's third album and a discovery of his passion for acoustic blues and slide guitar, citing musical influences like Cooder and Blind Willie Johnson. He continued to draw upon his own musical influences and honing a personal sound on 1997's Roll My Blues Away, a powerful, blues-driven record produced by Cookie Marenco (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Charlie Haden, Oregon). He jammed with country alternative rock fiddler/accordion player Dirk Powell for their self-titled collaboration two years later, as well as a rock-intensive album, Tony Furtado Band, that offered a full band including Buckethead.
His next solo album, American Gypsy, appeared on the What Are Records? label in 2002. After releasing a live album documenting the tour supporting American Gypsy, Furtado connected with the independent Funzalo Records label, where he released six albums between 2004 and 2011 while keeping up his busy tour schedule. In 2014, Furtado decided to strike out on his own, financing a new project through Kickstarter and releasing the results himself. Furtado's crowdsourcing campaign easily exceeded its goals, and in 2015 he released a digital EP, Copper and Tin, in advance of full-length album The Bell. ~ MacKenzie Wilson & Mark Deming