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Tony Furtado plays the rock side of Americana

While he has a nostalgic appreciation for his first instrument, banjo, Tony Furtado prefers the slide guitar for its versatility.

At 11, Furtado made his first banjo out of a pie tin, paper and fishing line. And at 19, he won the Grand National Banjo Championship in Winfield, Kan. He won it a second time four years later.

But despite his success, Furtado felt pigeonholed within the banjo-laden bluegrass genre.

"There came a point where I needed a change," he says. "I just wanted to play what I wanted to play."

Furtado learned to play his favorites by Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, David Lindley and Blind Willie Johnson on slide guitar. And when he had exhausted the greats, he wrote his own music.

Furtado, now based in Portland, is on the road all year, averaging about 150 shows annually with his band, The Tony Furtado Band.

"I went from just playing banjo to playing banjo and slide guitar with a rock band around me," he says.

While the audience still will find elements of bluegrass in his music, Furtado plays under the broad heading of Americana, encompassing folk, rock and blues, which he dresses up with Celtic and pop.

He'll play a stripped-down show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. His wife, guitarist Stephanie Schneiderman of the band Dirty Martini, will open the show. Schneiderman's solo work frequently airs on Northwest radio stations and has been featured on several television shows and movie soundtracks. She and two-time national fiddle champion Luke Price will join Furtado during his performance.

Last year, Furtado released his first self-produced, Portland-recorded album, "Golden," his 15th album overall.

"To my ears, it's almost a little bit of Americana mixed with indie rock," he says. "It goes in and out of folk and rock, and it feels like me."

This year, Furtado recorded a live DVD and CD, "Live at Mississippi Studios," his last project for Funzalo Records, of Tucson, Ariz. Although it has not been officially released Furtado will have copies of the CD available at the Unitarian.

Tickets to the show cost $20 in advance and are available at Music Coop in Ashland and www.stclairevents or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22 at the door, $10 for teens 12 through 17. Children younger than 12 will be admitted free.

Furtado will teach two workshops Sunday, Feb. 26, at Ashland Food Co-op, 300 N. Pioneer St. An intermediate to advanced banjo workshop will be from 10 a.m. to noon, and a bottleneck-slide guitar workshop will be from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Workshops cost $40 each or $60 for both. Call 541-535-3562 or see www.stclairevents.com to register.

Tony Furtado's new album, 'Live at Mississippi Studios,' will be availabe at his show at Unitarian Fellowship. - Photo by Christopher Sakr