Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy
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Becky Tracy (fiddle) and Keith Murphy (guitar, mandolin,piano and foot percussion)
Becky and Keith are dynamic performers of traditional music from Newfoundland, Quebec, Ireland, France and beyond. Tracy’s fiddling pulses through tasteful arrangements of dance tunes and resonates with beauty on traditional slow airs. Keith’s gentle and expressive singing in English and French is balanced by the drive and power of his guitar playing and foot percussion. Combined, they produce a range and richness of sound that is striking for a duo. Their playing is seamless, the result of years of playing together and touring across the U.S., Canada and in Europe. Their repertoire also includes Keith’s original compositions (many of which are included in the Black Isle Music tune collection). He is a prolific tunesmith with a writing style strongly based on traditional dance music. Keith and Becky were two thirds of the popular Vermont trio, Nightingale and are veterans of several other bands including Childsplay and Assembly (Keith) and Wild Asparagus (Becky). They can be heard on recordings of all these bands and many others. Becky released her first solo recording, Evergreen, in 2001. Keith’s album, Bound For Canaan (traditional songs from Eastern Canada and New England) was released in the summer of 2005 and he has recently rededicated himself to his work as a solo performer.
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A native of Newfoundland, Keith’s traditional song repertoire is based in Eastern Canada and Quebec as well as his current home, Vermont. His direct and intimate style of traditional singing in English and French infuses old ballads and songs with a powerful immediacy while his rhythmic and percussive finger style of guitar playing brings new shape and color to his songs. His 2005 album, Bound for Canaan showcased his refined sense of balance between innovation and tradition while his most recent CD, Suffer No Loss (2014) is a beautifully spare recording in the style of early classic recordings of the traditional English and Celtic music revival.
Keith was a founding member of Nightingale, a trio which broke new ground in its sophisticated approach to traditional music. He is a mainstay of the Boston fiddle extravaganza, Childsplay and has also worked extensively with Tony Barrand on the song repertoire from the early twentieth century of the Atwood family from Dover, Vermont. He also appears frequently with his wife, fiddler Becky Tracy.
Keith is an accomplished composer and arranger in the realm of traditional music and has also composed for theater and film. He is a featured performer on well over a dozen recordings and a guest musician on numerous others. His versions of traditional songs have inspired recordings by other groups including Solas, Uncle Earl and Great Big Sea. Several of his compositions have been featured on the recent Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts.
Keith is a faculty member of the Brattleboro Music Center (BMC) and the artistic director of the BMC’s Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival in Brattleboro Vermont which he founded in 2008.
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Becky Tracy has dance music in her blood. Her grandparents were active in the dance scene around Boston in the 1930’s and were involved in the early years of NEFFA (New England Folk Festival Association) – still an important institution in the New England dance scene. Becky’s parents met through dancing and were leaders of community dances for many years.
Becky herself began playing for contra dancing in Maine, bending her early classical training to the demands of dance music. Later, she studied Irish fiddling styles with
Brendan Mulvihill and Eugene O’Donnel and French Canadian fiddling with Lisa Ornstein. She brought things full circle when she appeared as the featured soloist with the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Evan Chambers’ Fiddle Concerto.
All these elements combined to give Becky her distinctive clarity of tone, a rhythmic attack owing much to French Canadian playing and the melodic quality of Irish music. Her sound is unmistakable. She has been a defining presence in some of the most popular and innovative contra dance bands to come out of New England, being the fiddler for both Wild Asparagus and Nightingale. Becky is featured on recordings by both these groups. She has performed for dance events and concerts in about 40 states across the US, as well as Canada and Europe and is a popular fiddle teacher at summer music camps. Her solo recording, Evergreen from 2001 is an album of haunting beauty, intimacy and exuberance.