A musician who has continually reinvented himself and yet has remained below the commercial radar, Tony Furtado has proved to be a tremendously versatile and vital artist. While a music student at Cal State Hayward, Furtado entered the Grand National Banjo Championship in Kansas on a whim, and won. He soon emerged as an accomplished bluegrass musician playing with the likes of Bla Fleck, Earl Scruggs and Alison Krauss. Furtado's an eclectic player who's always integrated elements of jazz and swing in his folk and country playing; his third album, Full Circle, found him exploring acoustic and slide blues, and he soon distinguished himself as a terrific slide guitar player reminiscent of Ry Cooder. Furtado's improvisational approach is something of a folk-rock-blues fusion, full of rich, melodic motifs, but his latest album, These Chains, finds him channeling his muse into more of a singer-songwriter direction over a rootsy mesh of styles.