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Betse Ellis

Show preview: Winfield Hangover at The Riot Room, 10.26.13

Missed the Walnut Valley Festival (or Winfield, as you may know it) last month? Went and still can’t get enough? Never fear, Kansas City: twelve local bands will be performing at The Riot Room this Saturday night as a part of The Winfield Hangover.
The concert has been organized by Eddie Crane (of Loaded Goat, pictured below), who has been a large proponent of the roots/Americana scene for years. “Every year when the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield ends, I feel like I can hear 15,000 hearts breaking, knowing that it's another 360 days until it rolls around again. I just wanted to give everyone another taste and put together a show for some of the folks that couldn't make or just can't let it go,” said Crane.

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
He’s put together quite an evening, showcasing some of the genres and subgenres represented at the annual fest, from folk to metalgrass to thrashbilly and beyond. See the full schedule below!
Indoor stage:
5:30 – Whiskey for the Lady
6:30 – Wells the Traveler
7:30 – Betse Ellis
8:30 – Famous Seamus and the Travelbongs
9:30 – Fast Food Junkies
10:45 – The Calamity Cubes
12:15 – Deadman Flats

Patio stage:
5:00 – Kasey Rausch and Friends
6:00 – The John Brown Boys
7:00 – Cadillac Flambe
8:00 – Loaded Goat
9:15 – The Kansas City Bear Fighters

--Michelle Bacon

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Album review: Betse Ellis - High Moon Order

(Photo by Paul Andrews)
High Moon Order slips on like an old flannel shirt or a broken in pair of jeans. If comfort food were thirteen tracks of down-home musical cooking, it would sound a lot like this. The introduction to Betse Ellis’s solo album is “The Traveler.” I was surprised by the lush pop writing elements. It is a warm handshake with earthy acoustic instruments. This is a departure from the feel of Ellis’s band The Wilders. There are also some obscure fiddle songs that round out the album.
“The Golden Road” delivers what I expect from Ellis: a solid mix of bluegrass, folk, and country elements. The lap steel playing is űber tasty. Next is “Long Time To Get There.” Bluegrass enthusiasts will genuinely love this track. Her playing is exquisite. Fans will rejoice that there are five instrumentals in total. “Dry and Dusty” is a front porch bottled up in a little digital cocktail. The musicianship on this track is outstanding. It’s simplicity in arrangement and construction will pull the listener in for two minutes and fifty-one seconds of daydream immersion.
“Straight To Hell” is a cover of a Clash song and easily won as my favorite song. The vocals are mesmerizing. The drums sound reminiscent to something you would hear from Florence and the Machine. The chorus left me singing for hours after my first listen. I enjoyed the bigger production and effects. After the third instrumental “Elk River Blues” and its fantastic melody line comes “Twilight is Stealing.” A more traditional song, the voices of Ellis and Roy Andrade (who also plays banjo on the album) meld magically together. Traditionalists of American bluegrass and roots music will appreciate Ellis’s attention to detail in song delivery.
The eighth track is “The Complainer.” Versatility, delivered. This track reminded me of a mesh of Public Image Ltd (PiL), The Clash and about 40 tons of Hillbilly Riot. Even though I love the tradition songs, this ended up being my second favorite. Any rock band would love to have it in its portfolio. The record settles in with “When Sorrow Encompass Me ‘Round” and “The Collector,” both being solid additions. The last two instrumentals “Stamper” and “Queen of the Earth and Child of the Skies” are a continuation of the stellar performance standard. At this point, I should acknowledge the engineering, mixing and mastering work on the album. There is great consistency across the recordings. Overall, the album art and production are splendid.
Lastly, there is a big embracing hug to say, “…so long friend until next time” in the song “Question to Lay Your Burden Down.” Here again, are the pop kisses added to cement the fact that you will anxiously awaiting this founding member of The Wilders next solo effort. High Moon Order is a fantastic choice for your summer 2013 music additions.
Editor’s Note: High Moon Order is being released on Free Dirt Records and was produced and engineered by Mike West. The accompanying musicians on the album were Roy Andrade (banjo, guitar, vox), Jason Beers (bass), J.J. “Yukon Jimijon” Hanson (upright bass), Mike Horan (guitar), Jonathan Kraft (drums), Josh Mobley (keys), Mark Smeltzer (vox), Michael Stover (electric/acoustic/steel guitar), Mike West (percussion, vox), and Phil Wade (vox).
Tonight’s the night! Ellis and friends will celebrate the release of High Moon Order at The Brick. Music starts at 9:00 with an acoustic set, featuring Ellis playing solo, with combinations of others, and with a special string segment. Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company will play around 10:15. The full band from High Moon Order will perform around 11:30 with other special guests. Local artist Héctor Casanova will be doing live art in response to the performances. Facebook event page.
--William Saunders 

William is a local record producer, singer/songwriter, and guitarist/singer for The Walltalkers. He is also the head monkey at Saunders Street Records and still likes movies with giant robots.

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The Deli KC & Sharp County Records Present: The Fallout Series

(Poster design by Rebecca Armstrong)
The Deli KC is proud to present our second showcase—a partnership with Sharp County Records, called The Fallout Series: A House Show Extravaganza. Though our first showcase was held in one of our favorite Kansas City music venues, this one will take place in a more intimate setting (location disclosed only to ticket holders) to help further build the sense of community in KC music that The Deli and Sharp County hope to promote. We’ll be hosting some of the excellent local performers: Elkheart (featuring members of Sons of Great Dane and Cherokee Rock Rifle), Hidden Pictures, and Betse Ellis.
The showcase will be next Thursday, December 20. Doors open at 8:30 pm and the show kicks off at 9 pm sharp. Tickets cost $10, and also include 2 beers and a digital download of the show. Beer will be available throughout the show, or you can bring your own.
TICKETS ARE PRE-SALE ONLY AND ARE FIRST COME FIRST SERVE! WE’RE ONLY SELLING 35! Email sharpcountyrecords@gmail.com to purchase your ticket(s) and receive the location address. If your name is not on the list, you WILL NOT be let in the door. Tickets are going fast, so get yours now!
Following the show, we will be heading to the local watering hole for some fine cheap booze/brews and free social interactions.
The location will only be disclosed to those attending. It is in close proximity to the downtown KC area.
Finally, if any artists are interested in showing their art at this event, please email the address above. We hope to see you there!

Show of the week: The Wilders at Knuckleheads, 6.30.12

The Wilders are one of the most successful bands to emerge from Kansas City in the past decade. The 4-piece string band has been around for over 15 years (13 years with the same lineup), has churned out 10 quality albums, and has had a successful run around the continent and in Europe. With such an impressive resumé and a huge catalog of music, there was no question that this would be our show of the week.

After 15 years of constant touring and playing, the group has decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. The show at Knuckleheads on Saturday will give fans a chance to hear The Wilders’ entire catalog, ranging from their beginnings of playing old country and folk standards to original alt-country Americana songs of the past few years. Though they have never been a cover band, they've been careful to pay homage to their influences throughout the years and use them to create their own material. Their latest album (2011, The Wilders) was the first that contained all original songs, and was well received by fans and critics alike, winning an Independent Music Award for best alt-country album.

Though Saturday's show is being billed as a "farewell show" of sorts, fiddler Betse Ellis was quick to explain that the band was not breaking up.

"We love each other too much to break up," said Ellis. "We're not ready to call it quits but we don't know when we'll play next."

Either way, this is a rare chance to see The Wilders perform in their hometown. The group’s exuberant live show is not to be missed, containing an energy that many bands simply cannot achieve. Frontman and guitarist Ike Sheldon is an otherworldly force on stage, with riffs and a voice that could destroy almost any heavy rocker. “He can go from biting your head off to stabbing you in the gut quietly within 30 seconds of the same song,” explained Ellis.

In the same turn, Ellis’s fierce fiddle work ensnares audiences. Bass player Nate Gawron lays down a solid foundation for the controlled chaos the band is known to create. Phil Wade rounds out the 4-piece as the multi-instrumentalist, often switching from mandolin to banjo to any number of stringed instruments. And all of this is done without a drummer, yet The Wilders’ music has a propulsion that often rivals that of a marching band.

The show begins at 9:00 p.m. The Wilders will play for the entire evening, providing a retrospective of their successful and diverse career. Tickets are $15 and available here.

--Michelle Bacon


Show review: Betse Ellis/Loves It!/The Depth and The Whisper at The Brick, 6.15.12

(Pictured above: Betse Ellis and Jason Beers)

The grit of Americana music is in the story. A person's entire life can be summed up in 3 of 4 minutes. The most joyous of moments, the inexplicably painful experiences, the randomly bizarre episodes, all wrapped up in a neat little structure of verses and choruses. Last Friday at The Brick, an attentive crowd listened as 3 different groups of songwriters took the stage with handfuls of stories to tell.

The night got off to a fast-paced start with a solo set from Betse Ellis, the fiercest fiddle player in Kansas City and likely beyond. With the talent, the material, and the personality to enhance it, a solo set from Ellis can be far more captivating than watching many full bands. As an original member of The Wilders, Ellis has the experience and the chutzpah to command a stage by implementing a mix of her own tunes and classics. Her set included songs from artists like The Doc Watson Family and John Hartford, along with a few originals. These songs ran the gamut of humorous ("Drunkard's Hiccups"), insightful ("It's A Hard Time in This World," a song she played on tenor guitar), yet always entertaining. Ellis closed out her set with a rendition of The Clash's "Straight To Hell" - a fine example of her rock influences tinged with a traditional flare and culminating in an amusing and accessible flavor.

Though Ellis set the bar high, Austin duo Loves It! took the show to another level. In the same vein as Ellis, they were able to connect the traditional with the modern, playing their blend of folk with hints of indie pop. At times, the interplay between Jenny Parrott and Vaughn Walters was lighthearted and whimsical, evoking stomping feet and bobbing heads. The duo's cover of NOFX's "Linoleum" stood up to Ellis's Clash cover with its boldness and quirkiness without the schtick. Other songs were heartbreaking stories with tragically gorgeous vocal harmonies, hearkening The Avett Brothers with the sincerity and intimacy of The Civil Wars.
The night wrapped with The Depth and The Whisper, a Kansas City group relatively fresh to the scene but complete with veteran local musicians (Dave Tanner, Albert Bickley, Troy Van Horn, and Kelsey Cook, filling in on drums for Go-Go Ray). Though this 4-piece band did not quite fit the folky mood of the evening, they picked up where Loves It! left off in terms of sincerity, and continued in the storytelling tradition with a fuller but controlled voice. With a subtle but heartfelt set, the group closed out the evening on a poetic note and tied together the honesty and clarity of the previous acts.
Though each act had different influences, different approaches and different energy levels, each had a way of recounting individual stories and honoring the others before them, invoking a special sense of musical community.

 --Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. In her spare time, she has no spare time, but fantasizes of the day where she can sleep and eat and travel to places where she can sleep and eat some more.


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