The Gina Furtado Project draws from Bluegrass music’s roots with “True Life Blues”

Article Contributed by Mountain Home … | Published on Friday, May 5, 2023

Banjo player, singer and songwriter Gina Furtado’s distinctive original songs are an aspect of her music that has won her a boatload of bluegrass airplay. Still, she’s an equally distinctive interpreter, as her previous single, a tip of the hat to African-American gospel favorites, the Golden Gate Quartet, showed — and now she’s following up with another tribute, this time to a couple of bluegrass giants: Bill Monroe and Hazel Dickens.

Recorded with her Gina Furtado Project and special guest Wayne Benson (mandolin), “True Life Blues” is a fresh take on a song that dates back to the music’s earliest days — in fact, even earlier, as it was first recorded by Monroe in early 1945, not long before what’s widely considered the “Big Bang” of bluegrass; his version featured his band’s first female member, accordionist and singer Wilene “Sally Ann” Forrester, though it was Monroe himself, along with singer Tex Willis, who delivered the song’s lament for the misfortunes of married life for too many women.

Monroe continued to perform the song for many years, even re-recording it in the 1980s, but it gained new life — and a sharper edge — when recorded in the mid-1970s for the final album made by Hall of Fame duo, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Their version, which closed out the album, featured a typically powerful tenor vocal from Dickens, as well as banjo from former Blue Grass Boy Lamar Grier and mandolin by another Hall of Famer, Mike Seeger. Furtado’s take, produced by fellow banjoist Kristin Scott Benson, retains the classic instrumental lineup of both, but takes a more modern approach by splitting solos between fiddle and mandolin, then guitar and banjo, and serves up a closely matched sibling duet from Gina and sister Malia. The result both nods in unmistakable ways to the classic recordings that inspired it and brings new perspectives and sounds in a well-balanced blend.

“It was fun to honor two of my favorites, Bill Monroe and Hazel Dickens, with one song,” says Furtado. “As a very happy ex-housewife, this song sure feels relatable! As always, I feel so lucky to have been joined by some incredible pickers: Malia Furtado (fiddle), Lu Furtado (bass), Drew Matulich (guitar), and Wayne Benson (mandolin).”

Listen to "True Life Blues" HERE.

About The Gina Furtado Project

Formed by innovative artist Gina Furtado, The Gina Furtado Project brings unique musicianship and songwriting that breaks free from the assumed constructs of traditional music modalities and makes a new musical statement influenced by emotion, played with the highest skill, and expressing an enormous verve and vitality.

Furtado, known for her work as the banjo player for Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, has a long history with her banjo. Born and raised in Front Royal, Virginia, Gina began touring up and down the east coast in her tween years with her siblings, earning countless ribbons from fiddlers conventions, a strong reputation in the regional bluegrass scene, and a stamp from Bluegrass Today as “absurdly talented.” She later played in a number of regional acts before making her international touring debut with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers soon after joining the group in 2016.

While touring, she is joined by Drew Matulich on guitar and her sisters Malia Furtado, on violin and Lu Furtado on bass, and each brings experience and energy to the band.

Now based in Asheville, NC, Matulich grew up in Georgia and began playing guitar at 8.  While studying music in college he performed with several bands of various styles in and around Georgia and Florida before immersing himself in the Bluegrass scene of Western North Carolina. He has toured and recorded with Billy Strings, made a guest appearance on Roland White's album and shared the stage with the likes of David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Sam Bush, Cody Kilby, and Sierra Hull.

Malia’s musical journey began at the age of 3 with classical violin lessons and took a turn, when she attended her first festival, Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, a few years later. Since then, she has performed with a number of different groups, taken home a range of prizes, graced the stage of numerous venues up and down the East Coast and given private lessons in both bluegrass and classical playing. Malia is the Director of Education at the Front Porch Music School in Charlottesville, VA, and currently teaches adult continued education courses in bluegrass fiddle at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, VA.

Lu Furtado has been attending bluegrass and old time music festivals since she was born. She began playing multiple instruments at the age of ten, and has been a winner at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention playing the Clawhammer banjo, as well as flat foot dancing. She has toured and recorded with multiple bands of varying styles, including Banana Express and the Hi Flyers. She taught banjo for several years at the Galax Elementary School and private music lessons for many years. She brings double trouble to the Gina Furtado Project with her silky, low harmony vocals as well as her stylish, groovy bass playing.