Getting back to the roots

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— When friends were listening to mainstream rock music in the 1980s, Tony Furtado was digging soul, funk and blues jams.

At 12 years old, Furtado began picking at his banjo while others were rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

"I'm starting to appreciate all those bands, but as long as it's got some soul and funk to it," Furtado said.

American roots that were popular when Furtado was just a boy are now making a resurgence with the help of his own hand.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Furtado said he naturally gravitated toward blues, jazz, soul and funk.

"That's just what my ear went to," Furtado said.

He played in high school and college bands but quickly deserted a career studying at California State at Hayward when he saw the light of touring.

"College wasn't my thing. I got out of college what I wanted to, but I got a hell of a lot of experience when I toured as a side man," Furtado said.

Furtado hit the road with a folky, string band that toured around the country. Furtado started in California, tried Washington, D.C., for a while, returned to California and ended up with his hot lineup in Boulder.

Although he said he never pushed his own music while in another band, he decided his own fate.

But a bluegrass shadow seems to follow him everywhere, Furtado said.

"That's been a stumbling block. My first two records were kind of in that vein, but for the past seven years I'm doing an American roots thing," Furtado said.

His resurgence of new American roots begins with an acoustic rock band setting with elements of Delta country music, Appalachian folk and Celtic rock. But instead of falling in line after someone else, each musician that is drawn to this type of music adds his or her own style to the base.

"Ben Harper he's got kind of that vibe, digging, dredging up a Delta blues sound but mixing it with his own style," said Furtado, comparing himself to Harper. "I'm trying to put my own spin on it."

At 33, Furtado said he's happy with the paths he's chosen and is firmly satisfied with his lineup: Gawain Matthews on electric guitar, Myron Dove on electric bass (who played with Robin Ford and Santana) and Aaron Johnston on drums (who continues to play with Commotion and Angry Marshall Band). Furtado said they'll go into the studio in December to record another album. The title is not yet known.

"This is the strongest band I've put together," Furtado said. "Over the past month, everything's coming together musically, crowd response, a consistent touring band."

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