On Aug. 15 of this year, while opening for Blue Oyster Cult at Hart Plaza with his band Spitting Nickels, 43-year-old guitarist Tom Furtaw collapsed onstage and passed away. Medical examiners ruled heart disease to be the cause of death. In light of such a tragedy, the release of this EP can't fail to take on extra significance. Furtaw, also a lawyer of high repute, was a fine guitarist, not to mention a handy Hammond organ player. What better way to celebrate his life than through his music?
It's with no small amount of pleasure (and, admittedly, a little relief) that we can say 5 The Hard Way is a fine example of Motor City blues rock. And Jim Diamond has done an excellent job from behind the mixing desk, while the musicianship of Sights and Shotgun Wedding man Eddie Baranek (taking drumming duties here), bassist John Bissa, lead guitarist Chris Brosky, vocalist Dennis Miriani and, of course, Furtaw is exquisite. The songs are pretty damn good too. As the title suggests, there are only five here, but each one is a finely-crafted slice of barroom boogie. "Give & Take" is a fittingly raucous way to open the record, with Miriani crooning over a filthy garage rock riff. "The Bitch of It All" features a strong '60s vibe in a Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels vein, with its anthemic chorus and some retro, jangly guitar work. Best of all is the amusingly titled "You're the Bomb, Soccer Mom." The band manages to make the wonderfully ludicrous title fit into a rather poignant tune without it sounding at all silly.
At the end of the day, music is only music, but it's great that, through Spitting Nickels' recorded output, Furtaw's spirit remains alive. Our condolences to Tom's wife and his three children. He will be missed.