Where I’ve been…

Hello friends,

It’s finally autumn and I have a moment to write. The duo Betse & Clarke has had an exciting year…

We both were instructors at the Folk Alliance International Winter Music Camp, and we stayed busy at night performing unofficial showcases. Also, from January through May, we worked continuously on our debut full-length album, entitled “River Still Rise”, and released it or rather, planted it, as we were busy with touring when it came out in July. It’s starting to grow now, showing up on radio playlists and receiving great reviews (like this) and we are excited about where it will take us on our adventures. More about the album below!


We taught at several music camps this year. Instructing is a joy and one of the things that drives us to continue our own learning. We taught at Montana Fiddle Camp, at Earful of Fiddle, and the Grand Targhee Music Camp. We also performed at the wonderful Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival. I had the joy of reuniting with the New Reeltime Travelers during the camp, and we also gave a joyous festival performance.

Then we headed to Ireland! Our first duo tour overseas, and a fabulous return for me after several years. We had a great adventure and look forward to getting back as soon as possible.

Winfield (the Walnut Valley Music Festival) followed immediately after our return. We both worked for my luthier, J.j. Hanson of Beautiful Music Violin Shop. JJ has been my trusted luthier for a decade now and it’s an honor to represent for the shop. People come to the festival not only for the great performances and music community– many come with a dream of finding a beloved instrument. The joy on someone’s face when they play a violin that has the exact sound they have been looking for!

Now we are at home for a bit– except this weekend, when we head to the Ozarks… (Mountain View, and also a trip to Little Rock — and our next big thing is our HOMECOMING CONCERT, when we finally get to celebrate the new album, along with our full string band, Brushy Creek (Brett Hodges and Alex Mallett). This concert is October 27 and tickets are on sale now! The Buffalo Room in Kansas City is quickly establishing itself as a prime listening room, with all the benefits of a restaurant and bar. Get Tickets here!

Finally, if you are curious what the album sounds like, you can find it on Spotify. We are using CD Baby to sell mail-order copies… here … we put our hearts into this album and very honestly feel this is some of the best musical work we’ve ever put to recording. We’d love to hear what you think about it.

Here’s to you and your families, friends, and to good sweet music. Happy autumn!



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End of the Year… almost here

End of the year is bringing new beginnings. Clarke & I are preparing to record a full-length album. We are visiting interesting acoustic spaces with a mobile recording rig and will capture the sounds of our instruments in harmony with each setting. I’ve never done anything quite like this and it’s definitely exciting to embark on this adventure! Did you hear our summer EP? You can check out a track at our site, one of our favorites. We experimented with multi-tracking on this one, with instruments and vocals.

Reunion, of a certain sort. Ike Sheldon and I are going to perform a special concert in Hesston, Kansas, on January 17. The Dyck Arboretum is the home of Prairie Window Concerts. We are thrilled to share our duo sound with folks in the area (hello, Winfield!) — time has passed since The Wilders have performed, but the bond that Ike and I share, musically, and through deep friendship, means that we continue to connect and develop our sound when we have the pleasure of playing together.

A few new projects, too… a sweet (and spicy) trio, SugarBee, is the union of myself with Ernest James Zydeco and Tony LaCroix. I recorded on the last two EJZ albums and this trio is an acoustic representation of zydeco and cajun roots and new branches. We’re running a facebook page, so stay tuned!

Starting Thursday, December 17, Clarke and I team up with our dear friend and musical powerhouse, Brett Hodges, for our new, monthly, Ollie’s Old Time Sessions. This is a whole new deal in Kansas City. We’ll be playing session music while folks come enjoy beefsteak and beer specials… it’s not quite a show, and not quite an open jam. One of those things you just gotta come experience. We’ll play from 7-10pm at Ollie’s Local, 31st & Gillham in Kansas City, MO (on the corner at Martini Corner).

With that, here’s a quick look back at October in the Ozarks… we went to visit Violet Hensley just after her 99th(!!!) birthday… we had seen her last in August when we all performed together at the Ozark Folk Center. She looks truly better than ever! We love you, Violet! Get her book at her very own website, right here!

Best wishes to you all and may you have love, music, health, and peace this holiday season and every season.

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Punk Rock IS Folk! I knew it!

It’s always super cool to receive super cool press out of the blue… and I totally identify with this list put out by The Bluegrass Situation. Punk rock is part of my personal musical tradition. When I started digging deeper into the life story of one of my heroes, Joe Strummer, and found out that he got turned on to Woody Guthrie and therefore was compelled to learn guitar and write his own songs, the connection hit me hard and more pieces of my music-life puzzle came together. Oh, I could say a whole lot more here! I have been known to wax on about my stance regarding Joe S as a folksinger. Let it also be a time to remind that I am as strong a champion for Ozark traditional music. After all, it was Ozark music that sealed the deal in me “becoming” a fiddler. Thankful! Ever moving forward while embracing what came before. Folk, all!

Bluegrass Situation, May 19, 2015

Fiddle Uprising!
Fiddle Uprising!
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Betse & Clarke – Spring Notes

Howdy folks, we are watching baby robins about to take flight from their nest on the corner of our porch! Betting on today or tomorrow… standing at the ready with the video camera. Something seems important about being ready to take flight…

So many things to report on – for now please take note that we are creating a Betse & Clarke website and will announce that here very soon! Also we’ll be moving the mailing list over to a B&C list. I’ll send an announcement to you all about that and invite you to join us there. That’s what I’ll be working on most of my time, for the foreseeable future. And I’m grateful for that! Such an experience.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll want to view our most recent video – recorded a few months ago, but well we’ve been so busy! Here’s Betse & Clarke playing “January Waltz”:

Throwback to a nice day in January. Happy spring everyone.

Posted by Betse & Clarke on Saturday, 18 April 2015

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2015 Folk Alliance Conference, Music Fair, and Camp

Here’s my teaching schedule and appearance schedule for Betse & Clarke at FAI 2015!

Betse & Clarke – 2015 Folk Alliance International Official Showcase Artists
Full Conference and Music Fair Schedule

Wed 2-18
8:00 PM: Benton’s (20th floor)
9:15 PM: BE Solo (Pershing N)
9:15 PM: CW w/ GAWD (Penn Valley)

Thurs 2-19
7:00 PM: Camp Faculty (Sheraton, Chicago)
10:30 PM: Murder Ballads (551)

Fri 2-20
2:00 PM: BE @ Camp – Ozark Heroes (Van Horn B)
7:00 PM: Rural Grit (Sheraton Art Gallery)
10:30 PM: Mayor’s Suite (537)

Sat 2-21
2:00 PM: BE @ Camp – Theory: Fiddlers & Friends (Van Horn B)
8:00 PM: MUSIC FAIR (Sheraton Chouteau)
11:30 PM: KC Music Collective (744)
2:30 AM: Finale Throw Down (Mayor’s Suite 537)

Sun 2-22
11:00 AM: BE @ Camp – Fiddle Spirituals (Van Horn B)

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Introducing Betse & Clarke

The year is coming to its close, and new things are opening… I’m excited to announce my newest project, one very dear to me. Here’s a duo, a fiddle-banjo duo, the likes of which you’ve not heard before. Introducing…

Betse & Clarke
Betse & Clarke explore their love of old time music with an inventive spirit, taking listeners on a field trip across mountain folkways and new landscapes. Their music is familiar… and totally different; a fiddle and banjo duo with a sense of adventure. Betse Ellis plays fiddle and sings like nobody’s business. Her years with The Wilders proved her passion for Ozark tunes and an unstoppable stage presence. Her early violin studies continue to shape her musicianship through technique and composition. Clarke Wyatt has an original and innovative approach to three-finger banjo. His background as a pianist and composer inform his banjo method as much as his love for old time music. Together, Betse & Clarke give every listener something to appreciate. They perform traditional tunes learned from cherished sources, creative arrangements of familiar and forgotten songs, and original compositions. You can expect to hear something new that reminds you what makes the old music so good.

Betse & Clarke

Drop by and see us!

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Happy Birthday, Violet Hensley!

Yesterday was Violet’s 98th birthday! My musical “grandma” continues to inspire me. We recently played a concert together and KCPT created a story for their Arts Upload show (our segment starts at 11:30). Watch it here

Violet, with daughter Sandy and grandson Sterling, at the Rock House, 2013
Violet, with daughter Sandy and grandson Sterling, at the Rock House, 2013
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House Concerts for Home Routes

I’m honored and excited to be embarking on a tour of Alberta, Canada, this month, presenting my music to audiences in homes thanks to Home Routes.

This organization, a long-time friend of Folk Alliance International, makes it possible for folk artists to share their music in places not always available to a touring musician. I have loved playing house concerts for years, whether with The Wilders, with other music friends, or my own solo shows. It’s a perfect environment for me to share not only the music, but the stories behind the music. It makes me really happy to tell folks about my friendship with Violet Hensley, or my thoughts on how certain traditional tunes and songs relate to each other. Communicating with an audience in a living room is so appropriate for much of my repertoire.

Hope to write a bit about the experience as it takes place. Stay tuned!

Last spring’s tour with Charlie Parr ended at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle… my voice was a bit used up, but it didn’t matter to the rockin crowd!

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