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Twistable, Turnable Man: Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein, as a writer, poet, and illustrator, has influenced generations upon generations of kids (and kids at heart) with his brilliant, witty, and touching turns of phrase.  In Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein (June 8, 2010), Sugar Hill Records shines a light on the lyrical genius’s oft-overlooked catalog of classic country songs.

As a songwriter, Silverstein penned indelible songs made famous by artists such as Johnny Cash, Dr. Hook, Loretta Lynn, and others.  No country singer ever made Shel’s work as large a part of his repertoire, though, as Bobby Bare Sr., who first partnered with Silverstein on the seminal Outlaw Country album, Lullabys, Legends and Lies, entirely penned by ShelBare Sr. and then-five-year-old son Bobby Bare Jr. received a Grammy nod for the country radio hit “Daddy What If” (a win, incidentally, would have made Bare Jr. the youngest Grammy holder ever, until they were usurped by those mavens of country music: The Pointer Sisters). The song is revisited on the tribute by the now-grown son with his own four-year-old daughter Isabella, making her the third generation to pay homage to Shel on this heart wrenching tune.

On this collection, lovingly co-produced by Bare Sr. and Bare Jr., the wide range of Silverstein’s work – from humorous to poignant to edgy – is interpreted by two distinct generations influenced by Silverstein’s work. From Dr. Dog, My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird, to Ray Price, Kris Kristofferson, and John Prine, the album is full of surprises and hidden gems. Bare Sr. says in his liners: “Shel would have loved every part of this album. This is the kind of thing he loved to do in the studio— having fun with friends, independent from all, doing it our way!”

Of the participating artists, Bobby Bare Jr., who grew up greatly influenced by Shel and went on to write with him as an adult, says “The lineup is a mix of people I have on speed dial, and people my dad has on speed dial” – fortunately they all just happened to be fans of Shel’s songwriting. Bare Jr. explains that Jim James of My Morning Jacket was already a huge fan of the song “Lullabys, Legends, and Lies,” which he would play as the house music between sets at MMJ shows. Bare Jr.’s friend and colleague Andrew Bird was the only artist permitted to put a poem to music, and his version of “The Twistable, Turnable Man Returns” is just as genuinely Bird as it is Silverstein, showing a striking similarity in their lyrical styles. Of John Prine, Bobby Bare Sr. insisted “This Guitar is for Sale” was perfectly suited to his wry and poignant style.

As a whole, the collection presents a variety of takes on a collection of material that lends itself to creative interpretation, making Twistable, Turnable Man: A Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein an eclectic, endearing valentine to this giant of American song.

Tony Furtado - 'Bare Bones' -

Tony Furtado- for the Grateful Web

String-bender extraordinaire Tony Furtado is a road dog. Playing an average of 300 live dates a year, from the western ski resorts in the winter to the summer festivals throughout the Midwest, through gritty Chicago and glitzy New York, to New England seaside towns and up and down the West Coast, Furtado's passion is playing his music live and bringing it out there to the people. Accordingly, he's wooed music lovers and won fans all over kingdom come. Which brings us to BARE BONES – a sampling of live solo acoustic shows that Tony recorded himself during some gigs last summer. Considering he'd just done a studio recording within the past year, he wasn't necessarily due for a new record. But his extensive solo touring had left folks wanting more of the same, and Furtado fans both new and old started asking for a recording that captures what he does best – play his heart out on stages in clubs, at festivals and just about everyplace in between.

BARE BONES is all Furtado. The songs here are not only performed (and most of them written) by Tony, but also recorded on the spot and engineered by the guitarist/singer/songwriter as well. And talk about baptism by fire: Furtado learned how to use the recording gear at these very shows. Dusty Wakeman, an accomplished musician and studio guru in his own right (Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Anne McCue), did the mixing and editing at his Mad Dog Studios in LA. Dusty has worked with Tony before, producing his records and playing in his road band, and here again he captures the flavor and flow of Tony's live show, letting the performances shine through and stand on their own without adding unnecessary studio gimmickry or polish. What Tony played and what the fans witnessed is what you get, and the passion and camaraderie come through loud and clear.

The songs themselves are a great representation of crowd-pleasing fan favorites. From Furtado originals ("These Chains," "Can You Hear the Rain") to traditional songs with new arrangements by Tony ("Rove Riley Rove," "Oh Berta Berta") to collaborations like the Furtado/Jules Shear-penned "Standing in the Rain" and finally, to perfectly suited covers (Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream," the Beatles' "I Will"), this album is a personal nod to the wishes of his fans, a way to relive the live show experience which brought them together to begin with.

Furtado started playing the banjo at about 12 years of age; by the time he was 19, he had established himself as a gifted musician. As he solidified his chops and sound by playing constantly, he was also raking in top awards for his banjo playing. But Tony started to feel constrained by his instrument as his musical sensibilities broadened. He wanted to write songs that had lyrics and also wanted to try his hand at singing them, so he applied his considerable prowess to mastering the guitar and writing and singing his own material. His last studio effort, 2004's THESE CHAINS, was the product of an established artist's conscious expansion of his boundaries, and truly a joy to behold.

BARE BONES is a reflection of Tony's boundless enthusiasm playing music for folks and traveling far and wide to do it. His tours have included stints with the likes of Gregg Allman, Taj Mahal, Alison Krauss, Derek Trucks, Eric Johnson, String Cheese Incident and many others. Whether or not you've seen him live, you'll want to catch a performance as soon as you can. In the meantime, check out this recording and you'll get the next best thing to a Tony Furtado show.