Kansas City string band with a sense of adventure: Betse & Clarke with Brushy Creek represent a collaboration of talented musicians who came together through love of music and friendship. All four members have a deep understanding of American roots music, and they share an enthusiasm for creating new branches on the living tree of folk music.
Betse & Clarke, a touring performing duo and respected old time music educators, play fiddle and banjo, respectively. Betse Ellis — a founder of The Wilders, a Walnut Valley Festival audience favorite — sings traditional southern mountain songs, and her own songs with themes related to human experience. She often tells the story of an old song, engaging audiences in the setting, and crediting the sources who maintained its history. Her fiddle playing is passionate and truthful, matching her singing. Clarke Wyatt is a finger-style banjo player, drawing inspiration from great traditional and inventive banjoists of earlier decades such as Mike Seeger, Dock Boggs, and John Hartford. His melodies match the fiddle, and also build rhythmic interest to embrace the music’s character. Betse & Clarke have taught at many music camps including Folk Alliance International Music Camp, Targhee Music Camp, Montana Fiddle Camp, and completed a three-week tour of Ireland in late summer 2016.
Brett Hodges, multi-instrumentalist and singer, holds an encyclopedic reservoir of roots music genres in his head, hands, and voice. His vocal style is expansive and engaging. He shares lead vocal duties with Betse and the two often sing in harmony. Equally comfortable on guitar, mandolin, and bass, when Brett plays fiddle with Betse, listeners have the special treat of hearing old time/country style twin fiddling. Brett’s former band, Last Kansas Exit, performed at Walnut Valley Festival in 1987. Brett leads two other long-running bands: country band Twang Daddies and bluegrass band No Mountain String Band, and is a widely respected musician and true asset to this group.
Alex Mallett on bass, open-back banjo, and singing, brings a creative side to the bass parts in a string band. He is equally adept at a straightforward style and an imaginative improvisational approach. Alex is also a skilled jazz musician who plays with a gypsy jazz band (Hot Club of KC) and also leads his own ensembles when time allows. He is the Business Development Manager for Folk Alliance International, and Brushy Creek is fortunate to have him in the band with his many talents.
Together, Brushy Creek creates an atmosphere of familiarity and inventiveness. They were the host band for a John Hartford tribute concert in Kansas City in 2016, a perfect fit for their multiple talents and shared love of an American music hero. Hartford material of both song and fiddle repertoire is always part of the band’s performance. The band is equally adept at delivering a faithful rendition of a song like “Gentle on Your Mind” as they are inventive with a new approach to classics like “The Old Home Place” or fiddle favorite “Sally Goodin”. In October of 2016, the band performed a sold-out self-produced Homecoming Concert in Kansas City.