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February 1, 2014

From prom queen to troubadour: West Limestone grad’s band gaining industry buzz w/VIDEO

The Bear to perform at South by Southwest

ATHENS — Fourteen years have slipped by since Louisa “Amber” Murray’s senior classmates surprised the dimpled free spirit, bestowing her with the unsolicited and unlikely dual titles of prom queen and best sense of humor.

Since graduating from West Limestone High School, Murray, 30, has earned a visual arts degree and put her wit and spark to frequent use as a lead singer, songwriter and musician for The Bear, a rising band from Muscle Shoals.

The Owens native, who goes by her first name professionally and learned to pluck the banjo from her late uncle, Tony Lovell, named the band after a short story in William Faulkner’s novel, “Go down, Moses.”

Murray, 30, and husband Nathan Pitts, a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter and a full-time research analyst at the University of North Alabama, met as college students living in Florence and started performing shows together in 2006.

The couple eventually added Muscle Shoals keyboardist Ben Tanner to play as a trio and then assembled a rotating rhythm section with Tuscumbia’s Ben Stedman, Kyle Minckler of New Hampshire and Florence native Daniel Stoddard “so we could play songs that needed a more full band sound,” Murray said.

“We still play acoustic shows occasionally with less members,” she said in email and phone interviews with The News Courier. “It’s nice to be able to change up the sound from show to show.”

The Bear is scheduled for an acoustic show at 7 p.m. March 1 at the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa and a record store tour stop at Central Square Records in Seaside, Fla. Additional dates will be announced on the band’s website, http://www.thebearmusic.com.

Murray said since Minckler and Stedman are on hiatus to spend time with their young families, drummer Jon Davis of Greenhill and bassist Josh Haselton of Brattleboro, Vt., are also playing with the band.

The Bear is steadily adding fans and generating industry buzz, recently receiving an invitation to participate in a singer-songwriter showcase at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

SXSW is both a festival and tradeshow known as a career launching pad for a variety of genres, including music, filmmaking, comedy and video game designers. The musical showcases are March 11-17, with specific concert information still pending.

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