Off with the roof

The Wilders & The Crooked Jades

If I was a cursin’ person (in public, anyway), I’d say The Wilders’ show at Sierra Nevada was the shitkickinest show I’ve seen in quite some time, maybe ever. Hats off to Big Room promoter Bob Littell for knowing a good thing when he hears it.

Wilders’ fiddler/singer Betse (pronounced “Betsy") Ellis is my new hero. Totally unpretentious in glasses, plain blouse and skirt and stubby cowboy boots, Ellis is low-key hilarious, a great singer and an absolutely rippin’ fiddle player.

Lead singer/guitarist Ike Sheldon, looking something like a young Col. Sanders in his suit, goatee and big white cowboy hat, however, would have stolen my heart if Ellis hadn’t been around. On numerous Hank Williams songs like “You’re Gonna Change (or I’m Gonna Leave)” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Bill Monroe’s “Sittin’ Alone in the Moonlight” and some early Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash tunes, his voice, with its sweet and plaintive baritone catch, was as down-home as it gets. His soliloquy delivery of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man” was darned sweet.

Dipping in and out on the one microphone, Ellis, Sheldon and the other two boys in big white hats—Phil Wade on banjo, Dobro, mandolin and vocals and Nate Gawron on upright bass and vocals—put on a tear-the-roof-off show of burning instrumentals and endearing vocals. The dance floor was jumping.

Opening for the Kansas City Wilders was excellent SF old-timey band The Crooked Jades, who joined the Wilders at one point for some infectious "jubilee," doing "Bound to Pay the Debt I Owe."