Spencer Branch (N.C. Folklife Area)

  • old-time
  • Crumpler, North Carolina

Spencer Branch is the collaboration of Virginia-born siblings Martha and Kilby Spencer and North Carolina native Kelley Breiding. With a repertoire drawn from their shared mountain roots, they play traditional bluegrass and old-time country alongside original songs.

Martha and Kilby Spencer come from a beloved musical family from Whitetop, Virginia. “There were always good people coming to the house to play,” says Kilby. “I missed a lot of good musicians, but I guess the music is in my head even if it’s not in my memory.” An award-winning fiddler and respected guitarist, Kilby also collects and digitizes rare local music recordings. Martha, a multi-instrumentalist and flatfoot dancer, learned old-time fiddling from her father, Thornton Spencer, and now teaches in the North Carolina Arts Council-sponsored Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) programs in Ashe and Alleghany counties.

Kelley Breiding followed her interest in Appalachian music to the clawhammer banjo. She plays in the Round Peak style, known for a bluesy feel with a distinctive rhythm and drive, learned from living in Round Peak, North Carolina and playing with the old-time band Back-Step. Recognized for her powerful vocals and multi-instrumental talents, she has performed with such artists as Peter Rowan and Ralph Stanley.

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