"Tunes we like"
The newest release from Betse & Clarke is a cassette of fiddle tunes. "Tunes We Like" features Betse Ellis on standard and cross-tuned fiddles, Clarke Wyatt on banjos and guitar, and some selections are played by the Brushy Creek String Band, adding Brett Hodges on guitar and Alex Mallett on bass.
Recorded by Wyatt live with no overdubs at home in Kansas City, Missouri, the instrumental collection highlights traditional Ozark tunes, learned from early string band recordings of the 1920s and from later Ozark heroes such as Bob Holt and soon to be 101 year old Violet Hensley. One selection is written by Ellis, "January Waltz", originally recorded with The Wilders. This tune has been performed and recorded by a number of modern old time bands, including Foghorn Stringband. This latest version brings listeners a fresh perspective on a favorite Ellis composition.
"Tunes We Like" was produced to be the first in an ongoing series of instrumental recordings. This cassette, released at the Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield, Kansas, September 2017, represents a returning interest in analog processes. Betse & Clarke will continue this model, with plans to record next on analog reel-to-reel tape for the next release in the series. The music may see an online release and digital distribution, but the plan is that all physical copies will be in analog format.
- Seneca Square Dance (2:48)
- Going Across the Sea (3:03)
- January Waltz (2:10)
- Highway Man (3:45)
- Lost Indian (2:08)
- White Creek (2:23)
- Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss (2:57)
- Old Grey Eagle (2:58)
- Uncle Henry... Goodbye (5:24)
SENECA SQUARE DANCE is from Fiddlin' Sam Long, recorded in 1926 for Gennett Records. Long is said to have been the first Ozark fiddler recorded. Many who play the tune today use a different chord progression than was originally recorded by Long. We used Long's beautifully simple progression.
Betse: standard fiddle / Clarke: standard G banjo / Brett Hodges: guitar / Alex Mallett: bass
GOING ACROSS THE SEA has a varied history, including an early recorded version from banjo player and singer Uncle Dave Macon. This version comes from the late great Bob Holt of Ava, Missouri. He was a consummate dance fiddler.
Betse: standard fiddle / Clarke: low D banjo (dADF#A)
JANUARY WALTZ (Smiling Violet Music, BMI) was written by Betse Ellis around 2004. Originally recorded with her former band The Wilders, this was the first fiddle tune written by Ellis.
Betse: standard fiddle / Clarke: standard banjo (aDAC#E) / Brett Hodges: guitar / Alex Mallett: bass
HIGHWAY MAN comes from Bill (Willie) Bilyeu, one member of a large musical Missouri Ozark family. A descendant of the family is our good friend Mark Bilyeu. Betse learned this tune specially for an Ozark Heroes weekend we did with Mark's duo The Creek Rocks (comprised of Mark and his wife, Cindy Woolf).
Betse: standard fiddle / Clarke: guitar
LOST INDIAN is another Ozark gem from Bob Holt. There's a thing we say sometimes when we announce we're going to play Lost Indian... "which one"? It's true, there are a lot of tunes out there with this title.
Betse: AEAC# / Clarke: standard banjo (capo 2) / Brett Hodges: guitar / Alex Mallett: bass
WHITE CREEK is a wonderful hidden gem, from Red McLaren, who was an Oklahoma fiddler visited by Marion Thede, the great fiddle scholar. Thede's "The Fiddle Book" is an outstanding body of work with beautiful attention to detail, especially regarding bowings.
Betse: AEAE / Clarke: standard banjo (capo 2)
FLY AROUND MY PRETTY LITTLE MISS may not be the one you are expecting, unless you happen to be a fan of Frank Blevins, as we are. Blevins, from western North Carolina's "Lost Provinces", recorded this in 1927, when he was 16 years old! This rendition has an unusual chord progression and it's loads of fun to play at a dance.
Betse: standard fiddle / Clarke: standard banjo / Brett Hodges: guitar / Alex Mallett: bass
OLD GREY EAGLE [sometimes "Old Gray Eagle" or even "Gray/Grey Eagle"] has elegance in its soaring melodic/rhythmic features. Betse learned this from the playing of Cecil Snow, an Arkansas fiddler featured on the Beisswenger/McCann "Ozarks Fiddle Music" collection. Just this summer, she found a very similar version included in the Thede book as simply "Gray Eagle". This is yet another tune in the category "same name, different tune" as there is another melody and variants without the "old" part in the name, and in a different key.
Betse: AEAE / Clarke: standard banjo (capo 2) / Brett Hodges: guitar / Alex Mallett: bass
UNCLE HENRY... GOODBYE comes from Violet Hensley, "The Whittling Fiddler of Arkansas". The story of the name has to do with Violet's original source for the tune, and then a later discovery that the tune was known as "Goodbye My Lover Goodbye". Violet has shared the story several times with Betse, who keeps getting confused and forgets the details. Stay tuned here for updates! (Also, we took a lot of liberties with the melody, allowing ourselves to go to our exploratory side with this meditative melody.)
Betse: DDAD / Clarke: low banjo
Dear Radio Programmers: We will get this recording to you in the format which you prefer. Stay tuned! (FCC compliant - instrumental only)