Artist profile: Brit Keeton fiddles for several bands

Fiddler Brit Keeton plays with Gallowglass, The Devilly Brothers, and Woe Be Gone.
Fiddler Brit Keeton plays with Gallowglass, The Devilly Brothers, and Woe Be Gone. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Fiddler Brit Keeton was was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. She recently graduated from Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College with a degree in ethnomusicology at, she says, “the ripe old age of 26.”

Here are the bands she performs with for some upcoming gigs:

Woe Be Gone plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Kulshan Brewery, 2238 James St., and at 9 p.m. Friday, July 24, at Poppes 360 at Best Western Lakeway Inn, 714 Lakeway Drive. Gallowglass plays at noon Wednesday, July 29, at WWU’s Performing Arts Center Outdoor Plaza; and Devilly Brothers play at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at Kulshan Brewery.

More about Keeton: britkeeton.com. More on Facebook about the groups she plays with: Woe Be Gone, Gallowglass and The Devilly Brothers.

Question: What brought you to Whatcom County?

Answer: Luck brought me to Whatcom County about three years ago. I found work doing habitat restoration along Whatcom Creek, and I moved to Bellingham, sight unseen. I’ve stayed because of the strong sense of community this town has, the vibrant music scene, and the trees. Kansas didn’t have many trees.

Q: Do you have a day job?

A: I teach traditional Irish or old-time fiddle lessons and gardening. Check out my website for details.

Q: What first drew you to music?

A: The first form of folk music I was exposed to was the gospel singing in the Nazarene church I was raised in. Those old hymns moved me, made me want to dance or cry, and gave me a sense of connection with the singers who had come before. I first felt the magic of music in church, and later I felt that same magnetic draw on the rare occasions I saw street musicians performing in Kansas City.

Though I played classical violin in high school, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally realized I could learn to play those rompin,’ stompin’ fiddle tunes that made my heart sing. With the help of local fiddler Cayley Schmid, I went cold-turkey from sheet music and learned to play by ear.

Q: What groups are you in?

A: I currently perform a combination of old-time and Irish music with Woe Be Gone, Gallowglass and The Devilly Brothers.

Woe Be Gone is a folk quartet composed of Clea Taylor on the cello, Zach Bauman and Sam Vogt on guitar and mandolin, and myself on fiddle and a wee bit of banjo. We all sing and have a grand old time playing traditional fiddle tunes, original songs, and whatever else suits our fancy at the moment.

Gallowglass is a not-strictly Irish group composed of Jan Peters on bouzouki and harmonica, Zach Bauman on guitar and mandolin, David Pender Lofgren on bodhran, and myself on fiddle. We gravitate toward the minor modal trance-like tunes and share a predilection for weird time signatures (which is to say, we’re nerds).

I also play with The Devilly Brothers, a rowdy bunch of fellows who play their own raunchy brand of proletariat folk music. Derek Duffy is a stonemason; Ed Hoban a carpenter; Zach Bauman a butcher; I’m a gardener; and Angus McLane is a family counselor — he’s a little more refined than the rest of us. We play at the Kulshan Brewery on a regular basis, and also play at private parties. I’m honored to be numbered amongst the brothers.

I also accompany Tanya Hladik, whose soulful singing has so much depth and beauty. She is an accomplished songwriter, and every once in a while we venture forth to share her new creations.

I’m also excited to be working with Cayley Schmid, founder and director of the Bellingham Folk Festival. We’ve begun the planning for next year’s event, which will happen January 22-24 and provide three days of workshops, performances, dances, and jams for all ages and abilities. The inaugural event last year brought together so many wonderful people — I can’t wait for the next one.

Q: What else is fun for you about living here?

A: Did I mention the trees? The natural beauty of this area blows me away, and also the ease of vegetable gardening in this climate. Nothing but music beats digging in the dirt all day and then going for a refreshing swim in Lake Padden.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Read her columns at bellinghamherald.com/behind-the-scenes.