Betse Ellis

  • Portland, OR
  • 04/03/2015
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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 Orderevolves 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.


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Betse Ellis

Charlie Parr with special guest Betse Ellis to play Portland on 4/3

Fiddler Betse Ellis is set to tour with prominent Minnesota roots musician Charlie Parr in March and April for a string of shows in the Western U.S. including shows in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and California. On April 3rd the two will make an appearance in Portland, OR with a performance at Mississippi Studios.

Following a spirited and crowd-pleasing 2014 Western USA tour, Charlie Parr and Betse Ellis are back to further explore their compelling musical connection.  Audiences can expect solo performances by each in addition to a collaborative set…and when Parr’s plaintive blues-folk guitar picking and Ellis’s fiery Ozarkian fiddling join forces, their organic interaction and intuitive nature bring forth new musical possibilities. Both notorious for their captivating live performances, the combination of Parr's wistfully melodic guitar and Ellis' red-hot fiddle creates a vast soundscape which reminds us that, often times, the impact of the sum is much more than its parts.

Betse's most recent album High Moon Order was released in June, 2013 on Free Dirt Records, and it immediately grabbed the attention of notable outlets in the Americana press circuit; No Depression selected the album for an exclusive "First Spin" feature, which is available at this link (and includes a stream of the full album). Betse also made a stop in the KCUR studios for an in-studio performance and interview; the NPR affiliate's feature story is available here. She recorded a Daytrotter Session, which can be heard here

What perhaps makes High Moon Order so distinct is its ability to surprise. One moment Betse wails out gritty words atop a screaming fiddle and drums, the next she quietly confesses over the strum of a tenor guitar. Yet, the pieces fall together beautifully for a record that pushes the boundaries of how folk music can be understood and transformed in the modern age. The album features 13 tracks that demonstrate Betse's incredible musical range, including traditional and original fiddle tunes, new, sonically rich songs featuring full electric band, and even a couple of fiery punk-infused numbers. High Moon Order will wow any fan of folk, old-time, Americana and beyond.

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. Betse has toured over the last decade, throughout the US and internationally with the acclaimed "hillbilly riot" band The Wilders, of which she is a founding member. Her solo career has flourished in the last several years involving tours in the Midwest and Colorado, in addition to teaching at music camps in Wyoming and Washington. In 2012, Betse was selected as an official showcasing artist for the Folk Alliance International conference, as well as for the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual festival.

Charlie has built up a devoted fanbase in Minnesota and nation-wide, both for his honest interpretations of traditional music and his original compositions that draw on old-time guitarists like Charlie Patton and Bukka White. He also incorporates banjo and resonator guitar into his repertoire. Together with Betse this is a show that can't be missed.    


March/April Tour Dates with Charlie Parr

March 28 - Hi-Dive, Denver, CO

April 1 - Neurolux, Boise, ID

April 2 - Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA

April 3 - Mississipi Studios, Portland, OR

April 4 - Top Hat Lounge, Missoula, MT 

April 6 - Peppermill Resort and Casino, Reno, NV

April 7 - Peppermill Resort and Casino, Reno, NV

April 8 - Peppermill Resort and Casino, Reno, NV

April 9 - Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA

For more info on Charlie Parr click here!


Dispatch Details

Doors Open: 8pm
Concert Start Time: 9pm
Venue: Mississippi Studios
Venue St. Address: 3939 North Mississippi Ave
Venue City, State: Portland, OR
Venue Zip: 97227
Venue Link: Click here
Ticket Price(s): $14
Ticket URL: Click here
Event Notes: Age Restriction: 21+
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