06/22/2012 The Deli Magazine, Concert review , 'Show review: Betse Ellis/Loves It!/The Depth and The Whisper at The Brick, 6.15.12'
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.