Without the sound of a breakout hit to commit to, acoustic virtuoso Tony Furtado has forged his two-decade career by reinventing himself every time he approaches a microphone. Whether on the road or in the studio, you will not find two incarnations of Furtado that sound the same, surely a result of the people Furtado chooses to play with. And his list of collaborators defies categorization: roots royalty like Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas and Alison Krauss, recordings with Dirk Powell on accordion and Brain (from Primus) on drums, and a tour that featured drummer Buddy Miles (from Jimmy Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies) and an onstage jam with Keith Richards.
With 13, Furtado makes forays in a sensitive singer-songwriter direction. Backed by veteran acoustic and electric studio musicians, he makes “luck” the central theme that ties these topical tracks together. From “Thirteen Below,” which deals with the Sago mine disaster, to a cover of Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot,” Furtado offers a look at life through the lens of good luck, bad luck and no luck at all. (Caroline Keys)
Tony Furtado plays Flanagan’s Central Station Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 8 PM. Cover TBA. Call 862-8888.
Taking a cue from rappers like KRS-One and Immortal Technique, Missoula’s Tahjbo (Tahj Kjelland) wants hip-hop heads to think critically about how American history and American policies have influenced the status quo. His debut, Paradigm Shift, is a politically and socially conscious call to arms, and he pulls off the rallying cry in insightful and engaging fashion.
When Tahjbo kicks the activism into high gear with “Sun Sets,” his skills on the mic are evident. As he examines the oppression and decimation of American Indians during America’s westward expansion, he points to the irony surrounding that period, spitting lines like: “Extermination of our people in the land of the free/While we celebrate the Corps of Discovery.” Tahjbo’s rhymes can also transcend political tirade, often showcasing him as an adept storyteller. This is especially true on “Crystal,” when he illustrates the dangers of crystal meth by rapping about it from the perspective of the drug.
Though the writing and rhyming are top-notch, Paradigm Shift suffers a bit from subpar production. The melodies could have been more polished and the bass lines beefed up, but such shortcomings are forgivable in an otherwise promising self-released effort from one of Missoula’s best up-and-coming rappers. (Ira Sather-Olson)
I thought The Slip was a jam band. Extended improvisation is certainly what I remember about the Northeastern trio from a night a half-dozen years ago when I wandered into the basement bar of New York City’s Knitting Factory, and The Slip treated the packed room to an into-the-wee-hours set of jazz-influenced extemporaneity that’s unrivalled in my memory. So I couldn’t resist picking their new album off the shelves, but I wasn’t expecting much songsmithing—jam bands being notoriously ill-suited to the recording studio and, to generalize grossly, purposeful evolution.
Whatever tempered expectations I brought, however, have little to do with why The Slip amazed me again. Eisenhower is focused and relentlessly inventive: heavy on cryptic, playful lyrics and deftly distorted guitar licks—a panoply of carefully controlled eccentricity woven into anthematic songs like “The Soft Machine” that evoke My Morning Jacket more than moe.
And while each of Eisenhower’s tunes is a compact, complete entity and not just a fakebook to be enlivened in concert, the album’s tracks cohere into an aesthetic that informs the idiosyncrasy of its constituent elements. It practically exudes enough presence to transform a living room’s overhead incandescents into gelled stage lights. (Jason Wiener)
Broken Love Letter
Rapper K-the-I??? really needs to get laid, or maybe he just needs a girlfriend who will hug and love him like a teddy bear. This Cambridge, Mass. native’s sophomore effort, Broken Love Letter, is a 43-minute oddball hip-hop indictment against all the women who’ve wronged him and screwed up his love life. And if you’re wondering if all his pissing and moaning about lost love gets old, it doesn’t—it just gets weirder and more complex with every song.
His allure lies in the fact that his style mixes the poetically abstract rhymes of rappers like Bigg Jus or MF Doom with a stream-of-consciousness vocal delivery similar to that of the late outsider musician Wesley Willis. The result is one of the most unconventional hip-hop albums released in the last year.
Purists might argue that Broken Love Letter isn’t really hip-hop at all. But it certainly is, because after you’ve waded through his tongue-twisting verbiage and ambient beats, you’ll want to thank him for being so innovative and daring in a genre that’s starting to sound increasingly stale. Who knows, you might even want K-the-I??? to meet one of your single friends for a date. (Ira Sather-Olson)