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Badass fiddler and Ozark fireball Betse Ellis brings an edgy fire to every note she bows, strums, sings or shouts. Part old-time celebrant and part contemporary songwriter, Betse is committed to purveying the breadth of possibilities within the folk format. She blends traditional source material with her own original works and presents a diverse sound that refuses to be labeled concretely. Citing influences from John Hartford to Joe Strummer, she traverses musical realms and pushes the boundaries of how folk music can be understood and imagined in the modern age.
Notorious for her powerful stage presence, Betse weaves tales of folklore and personal history throughout her performances, offering audiences an intimate live experience that is strikingly honest, uplifting, intense and humorous all at once. On stage she is a tour guide, taking listeners on a musical journey that explores her own “personal folk”, including reimagined punk and art rock compositions given new life through her own brand of fiddling prowess and passionate vocals. Betse’s presence is undeniably dynamic; one minute she’ll shred hairs from her bow on a fast-paced tune—shouting lines fervently over her fiddle—and the next she’ll quietly serenade a heart-breaking confessional song on tenor guitar. Her expertise at the challenging task of singing while fiddling distinguishes her as a solo artist, as well as an acclaimed instructor of fiddle workshops across America.
A classically trained violinist, Betse became dedicated to old time fiddle styles, especially Ozark styles, when she realized this music related directly to her regional heritage. Recognizing the deep soul present in the source music inspired Betse to spend the last 20 years of her life learning, performing, and teaching these styles. In 2009, Betse released her debut solo album Don’t You Want to Go? (Free Dirt Records), which earned her an Independent Music Award nomination; her work with The Wilders, the acclaimed “hillbilly riot” band of which Betse is a founding member, won the IMA for Best Alt. Country album (Someone’s Got to Pay) the same year. Prior to embarking on the development of her solo career, Betse toured internationally with The Wilders and contributed her fiddling, singing and songwriting talents on their numerous studio albums. In addition to her time with The Wilders, she has played in several roots and rock groups in and around her home base of Kansas City, Missouri.
Betse’s new, full-length studio album was released June 18, 2013 under Free Dirt Records; High Moon Order evolves from the raw, straightforward approach of Betse’s previous solo work to a sound that’s uncommonly complex and captivating. The album consists primarily of original compositions, with a few traditionals and old Ozark tunes imprinted with Betse’s own personal style and delivery.