Tony Furtado and John Jorgenson bring virtuosic ensembles to Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass


By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW

The countdown is on. Just seven more days until the ninth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival. Festivities get underway on Friday, June 6, and run through Sunday, June 8, on Reservoir Hill.

This year’s lineup is made up of 15 outstanding bands hailing from all over the United States: Peter Rowan’s Twang an’ Groove (featuring Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo), the Claire Lynch Band, The Deadly Gentlemen, The Steel Wheels, MilkDrive, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, SHEL, Grace Pettis and Pierce Pettis, Shook Twins, Finnders and Youngberg, The Railsplitters, Jon Stickley Trio and Moors and McCumber, and this week’s featured bands: Tony Furtado and the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band.

Tony Furtado
Tony Furtado

Tony Furtado is an indie record label’s dream artist. He has lived primarily on the road for the better part of the last two decades. He is gregarious, engaging and entertaining, on and off stage. He’s been called a genius on banjo and slide guitar and his own creative interpretation, a hybrid of Americana and indie rock, is captivating.

On stage, whether playing with a band or solo, Furtado owns the room, mixing stories of his travels with musicianship that is off the charts. No stranger to the FolkWest stage, Furtado has brought many different ensembles to Pagosa Springs, all of them cemented firmly together by Furtado’s astounding multi-instrumentation.

As a young banjo player, Tony found himself playing the genre of music most represented by the instrument — bluegrass. But all along, he was listening to everything from Celtic music, jazz and American folk, as well as to artists like Tom Petty and Jackson Browne. At the same time, he was delving into his parents’ collection of classic rock records (The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, etc.).

At the ripe age of 19, Furtado decided that one genre wasn’t enough for him; creatively, he had something more to express. He picked up the slide guitar and transitioned with ease. Using fingers and a bottleneck, he absorbed everything he could from albums by Ry Cooder, Fred McDowell, David Lindley and Blind Willie Johnson. He was soon composing for the slide guitar and that instrument and bluesy style has become a centerpiece of his musical style today.

The Tony Furtado Trio will play on the Folk ‘N Bluegrass main stage on Sunday, June 8, at 4:30 p.m.

John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band
John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band

Music virtuoso John Jorgenson, known for his blistering guitar licks and mastery of a broad musical palette, has earned a reputation as a world-class musician and guitarist who has collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan. In addition to acoustic and electric guitars, he is also regularly featured on the saxophone, clarinet, bouzouki, pedal steel, mandolin, vocals and has garnered recognition for contributing to numerous platinum-selling and Grammy-winning albums.

Guitarists (and folks who read liner notes) will be well-acquainted with John Jorgenson, as his career has already spanned more than three decades and diverse musical styles. First coming to national attention in the mid ’80s as co-founder of successful country-rock act The Desert Rose Band, an eclectic array of artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger and Barbara Streisand were drawn to add Jorgenson’s artistry to their own recordings.

In the ’90s, The Hellecasters gave audiences a chance to experience Jorgenson’s fretboard fireworks in an unrestrained venue, and the trio’s three original albums remain favorites of guitarists everywhere. Having been a fan of the Desert Rose Band, Elton John invited Jorgenson to join his band in 1994 for an 18-month tour that stretched into a six-year stint of touring, recording and TV appearances with the British superstar, in addition to collaborations with other artists including Sting and Billy Joel.

Jorgenson continues to expand his dynamic range of musical offerings, exploring new elements of world music, bluegrass, rock and classical as he captivates and enlightens fellow musicians and listeners along the way. Whether touring with the Desert Rose Band, the John Jorgenson Quintet, the John Jorgenson Electric Band or the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, each permutation allows Jorgenson to make prodigious use of his mastery of many instruments.

Currently, Jorgenson is touring the country with his latest project, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. This stellar bluegrass ensemble features four legendary musicians: Jorgenson on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Herb Pedersen on banjo, guitar and vocals; Jon Randall on guitar and vocals; and Mark Fain on bass. They made their first appearance as a group at the IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass Festival last fall, with performances at both the City Plaza Stage and Hargett Street Stage.

The band has also played at the Grand Ole Opry and the legendary Station Inn in Nashville, garnering rave reviews for their performances. They will play the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass stage on Saturday, June 7, at 5:30 p.m.

Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part by funding from Colorado Creative Industries, a state agency whose mission is “to promote, support and expand the creative industries to drive Colorado’s economy, grow jobs and enhance our quality of life.”

Tickets and a wealth of information are available online at the website or by calling 731-5582. Children 12 and under receive free admission to the festival when accompanied by an adult.

(Tony Furtado and John Jorgenson provided the bio information found in this story.)