Exclusive ND First Spin: Betse Ellis - High Moon Order

by Kim Ruehl

Missouri may be fly-over country for folks on the coasts, but while we're all flying high in our planes, down on the ground, Kansas City boasts a remarkable music scene. It's been home to outlaw country band the Wilders for years, with their raucous attack at music which straddles a line between bluegrass and old-school honky tonk music. If you've ever caught the Wilders live, no doubt you've noted their spirited fiddler Betse Ellis.

Onstage, Ellis plays like a pistol with a saw in its hand, rocking back and forth like some bastard love child of Alison Krauss and Sid Vicious.

So, it's with great interest that we turn our ears now on Ellis's second solo effort, High Moon Order (out on Free Dirt Records 6/18). The songwriting is solid, the vocals range from sweet and easy to emphatic and hollered, and the whole thing feels markedly different from a Wilders album.

Of course, there are obscure fiddle tunes from the Ozarks and plenty of rousing numbers (including a cover of the Clash's "Straight to Hell"), but Ellis asserts herself as a wholly individual artist here, influenced as much by tradition as she is by the rock and roll desire to tear it down. Further, the personnel on the disc is pulled from Kansas City's finest, proving you don't have to fly out of fly-over country to find players capable of thinking outside the box.

Listen in for yourself and see what you think. 

NOTE: We originally stated Ellis was from Kansas and that this was her first solo effort. We have corrected those inaccuracies and apologize for their original inclusion.

Views: 1060

Comment by michael byars on June 4, 2013 at 3:22am

Betse Ellis continues to establish herself as a musical force, be it with The Wilders or on her own.  Her new album shows her musical diversity and combines just enough polish with just enough grit to be the real deal.  One correction to the review: this is not her first solo recording - she released "Don't You Want To Go" in 2009 through the Trade Roots Music Group.

Comment by Jim Nelson on June 4, 2013 at 7:15am

Betse is a force to be reckoned with, surely. For the record, though, I believe this is her second solo album.

Comment by Allan Y McDougall on June 4, 2013 at 12:22pm

Yes, 2nd album, and it is very good, a really 

nice mixture of fiddle tunes and original tunes and songs. Well done Betse

Comment by Frances Romasco on June 7, 2013 at 9:48pm


Thanks, Kim. I have never heard Betse before(or the Wilders).

What an incredibly talented woman!

What an incredible collection of songs!

So many drastic switches of styles, but consistantly great arrangements; she, and, her fiddle, sing with really sincere emotions, screaming or droning.

I've pre-ordered it.


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.