Album review: Betse Ellis - High Moon Order
High Moon Order slips on like an old flannel shirt or a broken in pair of jeans. If comfort food were thirteen tracks of down-home musical cooking, it would sound a lot like this. The introduction to Betse Ellis’s solo album is “The Traveler.” I was surprised by the lush pop writing elements. It is a warm handshake with earthy acoustic instruments. This is a departure from the feel of Ellis’s band The Wilders. There are also some obscure fiddle songs that round out the album.
“The Golden Road” delivers what I expect from Ellis: a solid mix of bluegrass, folk, and country elements. The lap steel playing is űber tasty. Next is “Long Time To Get There.” Bluegrass enthusiasts will genuinely love this track. Her playing is exquisite. Fans will rejoice that there are five instrumentals in total. “Dry and Dusty” is a front porch bottled up in a little digital cocktail. The musicianship on this track is outstanding. It’s simplicity in arrangement and construction will pull the listener in for two minutes and fifty-one seconds of daydream immersion.
“Straight To Hell” is a cover of a Clash song and easily won as my favorite song. The vocals are mesmerizing. The drums sound reminiscent to something you would hear from Florence and the Machine. The chorus left me singing for hours after my first listen. I enjoyed the bigger production and effects. After the third instrumental “Elk River Blues” and its fantastic melody line comes “Twilight is Stealing.” A more traditional song, the voices of Ellis and Roy Andrade (who also plays banjo on the album) meld magically together. Traditionalists of American bluegrass and roots music will appreciate Ellis’s attention to detail in song delivery.
The eighth track is “The Complainer.” Versatility, delivered. This track reminded me of a mesh of Public Image Ltd (PiL), The Clash and about 40 tons of Hillbilly Riot. Even though I love the tradition songs, this ended up being my second favorite. Any rock band would love to have it in its portfolio. The record settles in with “When Sorrow Encompass Me ‘Round” and “The Collector,” both being solid additions. The last two instrumentals “Stamper” and “Queen of the Earth and Child of the Skies” are a continuation of the stellar performance standard. At this point, I should acknowledge the engineering, mixing and mastering work on the album. There is great consistency across the recordings. Overall, the album art and production are splendid.
Lastly, there is a big embracing hug to say, “…so long friend until next time” in the song “Question to Lay Your Burden Down.” Here again, are the pop kisses added to cement the fact that you will anxiously awaiting this founding member of The Wilders next solo effort. High Moon Order is a fantastic choice for your summer 2013 music additions.
Editor’s Note: High Moon Order is being released on Free Dirt Records and was produced and engineered by Mike West. The accompanying musicians on the album were Roy Andrade (banjo, guitar, vox), Jason Beers (bass), J.J. “Yukon Jimijon” Hanson (upright bass), Mike Horan (guitar), Jonathan Kraft (drums), Josh Mobley (keys), Mark Smeltzer (vox), Michael Stover (electric/acoustic/steel guitar), Mike West (percussion, vox), and Phil Wade (vox).
Tonight’s the night! Ellis and friends will celebrate the release of High Moon Order at The Brick. Music starts at 9:00 with an acoustic set, featuring Ellis playing solo, with combinations of others, and with a special string segment. Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company will play around 10:15. The full band from High Moon Order will perform around 11:30 with other special guests. Local artist Héctor Casanova will be doing live art in response to the performances. Facebook event page.
This Emerging Artist is based in KC,
check out other talented locals we picked
for our KC Artist of the Month poll below!