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 next 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 latest solo 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.
Shelby Rae Murdock
Shelby Rae Murdock has been playing the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin since she was 12 years old and has studied with some of the fiddle world’s best. She just graduated with a Bachelor in Music Education, on a full scholarship, from Idaho State University. Shelby has a passion for teaching and currently has 54 private students, many of which hold state titles and have won scholarships to study music. She loves to travel to compete, judge, and teach at various fiddle contests and camps around the West. Some of Shelby’s titles include the 2016 Dillon, MT, Idaho State, and Teton County WY fiddle champion. At the 2016 National Fiddle Contest in Weiser, ID she won ‘Fanciest Fiddler,’ and placed 2nd in the Young Adult Division. In 2017, Shelby was a judge for the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest and was the youngest on the panel.
Beginning Fiddle & Dance
Louise started playing the piano at age five. She played the piano, fiddle, mandolin and guitar, and sang with her family band for over 20 years entertaining seniors with country and western music. Louise is also a certified dance instructor from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
Clarke Wyatt is an engaging finger-style banjo player, drawing inspiration from great traditional and inventive banjoists of earlier decades such as Mike Seeger and John Hartford. His melodies match the fiddle, and also build rhythmic interest to embrace the music’s character. He also plays finger-style guitar, when it suits the musical style and texture.