Oscar Fuentes, left, and Mark Anthony Febbo started playing as the duo Febbo Fuentes in 2016. (Jimi Giannatti/Contributor) 

Mark Anthony Febbo and Oscar Fuentes have built a rapport, dating back to their time in Clam Tostada. It continues with the Southwest Americana duo Febbo Fuentes.

The duo will perform at Steam Pump Ranch on Saturday, Jan. 14, during the Second Saturdays Oro Valley Farmers Market. The market will also have vendors, food trucks and children’s activities.

The historic ranch, which once served as a way station for cattle, will also host blues and folk musician Bob Bovee on Feb. 11 and the Tucson Fiddle Contest on March 11.

This is the first time Febbo Fuentes has performed at the Oro Valley Farmers Market. They have worked with sponsors SAACA for other events.

The duo regularly performs each month at Westbound and Tap and Bottle in Tucson. They also play the Button Brew House in Marana every few months and St. Charles Tavern a few times a year. The duo also hits stages in Bisbee, Phoenix and Tempe, as well as New Mexico.

Febbo said performing around the Southwest allows him and Fuentes to connect with a variety of audiences.

“It’s fun to see people in the community out and about,” Febbo said.

“There are always people who stop, take notice and listen for a little while. It’s nice to get out and be heard by new people who don’t hear us all the time,” Febbo said.

Longtime friends

Febbo and Fuentes have been playing as a duo since 2016.

They became good friends and started playing together in Febbo’s band Clam Tostada in 2012. They met at a show at Monterey Court, as they listened to another band.

“We hit it off, becoming fast friends. I invited him over to come jam with our band once I found out that he played saxophone,” Febbo said.

Fuentes is a full-time musician. Febbo plays part time, as he works as the communications officer for the UA Cancer Center and books shows for the likes of Tap and Bottle. He has two young children, ages 2 and 6 months, so he doesn’t play out as much as he did in the past.

Even though Febbo is more limited in time, he always fits music into his busy schedule.

“You have to find time and space for something you love to do. If somebody offers us a gig, we definitely take it because we want to form new relationships and find other places to play,” Febbo said.

Febbo and Fuentes have very different styles as musicians, but they have found that they mesh well.

Febbo tends to perform traditional Mexican music and rock and blues songs in Spanish. Febbo does rock, blues and folky music; a mix of originals and covers.

Febbo said they often do covers that aren’t instantly recognizable, by songwriters they admire. The songs tend to be ones to which they are emotionally attached.

Febbo especially likes doing covers by Blaze Foley. One of Fuente’s favorites is a traditional Mexican folk song called “La Llorona.”

“We cover a variety. I think that keeps people interested. We have very different voices, but they are complementary to each other,” Febbo said. “That is a different thing about us. I think it’s one of the reasons that people ask for us back. They like that we cover a lot of different styles.”

They will often improvise when they perform.

“We just call stuff out to each other. Half the time, Oscar will play songs in the set I’ve never heard before. That’s always fun to try to keep up. You learn to improvise, that’s for sure. I can hear the chords he is playing and play along with him. That makes for some impromptu arrangements. It’s fun for us and fun for the audience,” Febbo said.

Recently, Febbo has trying to learn different guitar styles, including fingerpicking, and has been playing the resonator.

“I have been trying to better myself in terms of my musicianship, knowing more and understanding more,” Febbo said.

Fuentes also plays the lap steel guitar, saxophone, piano and other instruments. When they perform, they trade off singing and accompany each other on guitar.

Febbo worked with Fuentes and other local musicians from Tucson, including fiddle player/violinist Heather Hardy, on his latest album “Dry River Redemption.” Sometimes, Hardy will join the duo for performances.

New music

Febbo most recently released new music in February 2020. The album was recorded at Fuente’s studio TucSound Recording Studio.

The album came out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Febbo didn’t have much of a chance to promote it, save a release party just before the world shut down.

He and the band that made the album did a release party and were able to play out a little before everything shut down.

Sometimes Fuentes and Febbo will play versions of songs from the album.

“It’s different with the duo than it would be with a full band, but we play those songs now,” Febbo said.

Febbo has recently been working on instrumental music, and Fuentes has been writing new songs. Sometimes they will sprinkle this music in during performances.

They are hoping to do a project together as a duo soon. There is one recording of the two of them playing at St. Charles Tavern a few years ago.

Fuentes, who is from Guadalajara, Mexico, played different spots in Mexico for decades before moving to Tucson in 2010.

Febbo, a third-generation Tucsonan, has been playing music in the city since 2001.

He started playing the guitar at age 16, when his dad bought a guitar for his mom.

“She played it a little but didn’t ever dedicate much time to it. This guitar was sitting around, and I started teaching myself to play guitar,” Febbo said.

Febbo has enjoyed playing Tucson throughout his career. The scene is supportive with musicians often playing with each other in different configurations and watching each other perform.

“Especially when you play around the downtown area, you will see other musicians come out to listen to their peers,” Febbo said.

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