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New Bedford area musician Art Tebbetts shines at weekend folk festival

2009 July 7

The New Bedford Summerfest has always drawn a diverse group of musicians. They come from all over. The organizers of this annual festival have developed a knack for nicely blending talent from all over the world and from all over the United States. Thankfully, they don’t overlook the talent right in their own backyard.

New Bedford-area musician Art Tebbetts performed at several of the stages at this past weekend’s Summerfest. I happened to catch his show on Saturday, July 4. It was held in the auditorium of the Whaling Museum in the city’s heart. While Art didn’t sell out the joint, he had a respectable crowd of almost 100 people, and he appreciated it. Some were friends offering support. Some were strangers. He greeted folks and shook their hands as they came in. They had come to the show to enjoy his conversational and amiable storytelling style, in the wonderful folk tradition, and he didn’t disappoint. While other shows this weekend might have featured wizardry on guitar or other instruments, Tebbetts specialty is simply playing songs people know, getting them to sing along and taking requests.

Art has a knack for just that. Aside from playing in pubs and coffeehouses, his “day job” is performing for seniors in nursing homes or at councils for aging, where he plays all the classic songs that shaped the soundtrack for an older generation. But he’s a folkie and showman at heart, enjoys the world of tie-dye, acoustic instruments and a great old sing-along. He does it all with a smile, knowing that he never got into folk music for the money.

Below is a playlist of some of the songs from his Saturday show:

Tebbetts is a cover-master, able to perform many songs in “folk” fashion on his acoustic guitar, whether they are songs from the mid 1900’s to the more contemporary. He took requests from the audience, including Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” and others performed Saturday. He played Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue,” and even Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” with some interesting reverb that made him sound like he was in a larger hall.

He poked fun at a friend/photographer who was lying down in front of the stage. Later he posed mid-show for a photo with the audience, saying it would be this year’s Christmas card. He made fun of his own quirkiness, and changed keys to a more comfortable one during the intro of “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” a song popularized by Elvis Presley. I have edited the key change out of the video to keep it shorter. But the audience laughter you hear is from Art repeating his story once he found the right key.

You can check out more good stuff about Art at his myspace page, and even read his take on his shows and events at Summerfest on his blog.

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