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CD Review: BETSE & CLARKE River Still Rise

BETSE & CLARKE

River Still Rise

Stepping On Ghosts – The Two Brothers –
Shelvin’ Rock – In This World – Calico – Requiem For Little Sadie – The
Quail Is A Pretty Bird – Fair And Tender Ladies – Arkansas Traveler –
Diamond Joe – Jericho – Fill My Way With Love – Rolling River – Take A
Drink On Me – ASB Bridge Blues

 

Wow, what a surprise this CD was for me to receive.  Now I
can’t remember how I got it, but Betse Ellis, the incredible fiddler and
vocalist on this album, is an old friend of mine.  Some of you might
remember when she was with a band called “The Wilders” who came to our
National Old Time Music Festival when it was in Missouri Valley, Iowa. 
This particular group was astonishing.  Betse played fiddle incredibly
well way back when, she was also a mainstay in their vocal
presentations, and she also danced on stage.  Matter of fact she has an
astonishing stage presence I’ve not seen in any performing group since. 
She has pursued her musical road in life, and from the sound of this
incredibly gifted CD, she is once again returning to her ‘roots’
impressions to once again visit the fountain of historical accuracy. 
Wow, it is indeed a treat to hear her do this old-style with such
vivacity and certainly love.  She dominates the musical presentation,
however Clark Wyatt accompanies her on banjo and cello in the ‘just
right’ spots.  Also enjoyed Brett Hodges on acoustic guitar, especially
on “In This World,” a song Betse wrote.  Matter of fact she contributed
her ‘originality’ on a couple other songs as well.  This particular song
is perpetual perfection in re-capturing the incredible sound, spirit,
honesty, sincerity, and love of the early mountain music so many still
appreciate today, me especially. Clarke plays an exceptional banjo back
and lead on this song.  Truly astonishing to hear it done so well, so
incredibly well. Lest I forget, Alex Malett (from Bushy Creek) plays a
‘just right’ upright acoustic bass.  In a lot of bluegrass music we hear
today, the bass is taking ‘lead’ positions.  The early music of the
mountain folk didn’t appreciate that.  They wanted the bass to fill the
lower end of the musical scale, not become a lead instrument.  They
wanted the bass to be the ‘beat saver’ and that is exactly what Alex
does with his ‘sweet’ sounding instrument.  Just right.  The ‘star’ of
this super neat CD is none other than Betse Ellis, whether it be vocals
or fiddle, she know exactly where she wants it to be.  She knows exactly
where she wants to go with it.  How perfect.   Betse also explores the
music of another old friend of mine, Violet Hensley a 100-year old
fiddler I worked with for many years at Silver Dollar City in Branson,
Missouri.  Betse has captured exactly what Violet was ‘chasing in music’
for so many years. I believe Violet is still pursuing her musical
career, and was recently on the Grand Ole Opry.  This entire CD labeled
‘Betse & Clarke” is an astonishing replevin of America’s rural past.
It don’t get much better.  “The Arkansas Traveler” is a good example of
how Betse lays claim to the old style.  She adds a note here and there
in this song to make it more diddly diddly doo which was probably it’s
original intent.  Jimmie Driftwood would love the way Betse plays this
great old Ozark Mountain folk song.  This wonderful CD closes with
another Betse original “ASB Bridge Blues” an astonishing presentation of
super terrific instrumentalism.  This CD will definitely go directly to
the Rural Roots Music Commission, and they will listen with the same
unbelievable ear that I have.  I already know they will love it.  It
will be eligible for “CD of the Year” in 2018.  We certainly wish them
well.  “Fill My Way With Love” Betse, you got it.  Even though Clarke
Wyatt recorded and mixed this CD, additional final mix assistance was
offered by Chad Meise at Massive Sound.  I’d have to say the ‘ear’ on
everyone on this project is right where it should be.

RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART, President,  National Traditional Country Music Assn., www.music-savers.com for Country Music News International

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