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.