MP3 Monday: Bette & Wallet

Bette & WalletBette & Wallet is the Canadian duo of Mary Beth Carty (accordion) and Gabriel Ouellette (fiddle, guitar). Hopping seamlessly between English and French, Bette & Wallet mix their Nova Scotian and Québécois roots with klezmer, Cajun, Irish, and blues to create a colorful musical patchwork you can dance to. Mary Beth uses the term ‘musique recyclée’ to describe their music — the art of combining traditional melodies with contemporary folklore — and its an apt description for their vibrant, authentic brand of folk. The duo has already earned Canadian Folk Music Award nominations and invitations to festivals in France and Canada.

Dylan Does Brave Combo

It’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit, which may explain this week’s release of Bob Dylan’s Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. Nestled among classics like “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silver Bells” is a tune that will be instantly recognizable to Brave Combo fans: “Must Be Santa” from the band’s own Christmas album (It’s Christmas, Man!) in 1991. Dylan’s version is nearly identical to their arrangement, right down to the polka beat and bouncy accordion supplied by David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. You can listen to Dylan’s rendition using the widget below:

Is it a coincidence or is Bob Dylan a closet Brave Combo fan? Turns out it’s the latter — apparently Dylan once played the Brave Combo version on his satellite radio show. Yet another score for the boys from Denton.

Quick Links: Festivals in Review

We consider ourselves lucky if there’s one accordion festival going on during a given weekend; two festivals is practically an embarrassment of riches. And yet, that was the case last weekend. While the International Accordion Festival took over rainy San Antonio, some trailblazers in Southern California hosted the first-ever Orange County Accordion Festival.

Aleksandr Hrustevich, Internet Accordion Star

On the Internet can you become a star overnight; just ask Ukranian accordionist Aleksandr Hrustevich. Late last week, this video of Hrustevich performing the third movement of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” swept across the Internet faster than his fingers across his bayan (Russian chromatic button accordion). From NPR to Digg, viewers raved about his performance, mostly along the lines of “Wow, I never knew an accordion could sound like this!” Indeed it can.

Check Aleksandr’s YouTube profile for more videos, including performances of Bach, Tchaikovsky, and more.

The (Controversial?) International Accordion Festival

This weekend, accordion lovers will flock to San Antonio for the 9th annual International Accordion Festival. This free, two-day outdoor festival always features a stellar lineup of concerts and workshops featuring accordionists from around the world in a variety of genres — from Balkan to Basque, Acadian to Arabic, and beyond. Performers at this year’s festival include Buckwheat Zydeco, Guy Klucevsek, Ivan Milev, the George Lammam Ensemble, and many others. There’s also a pre-festival concert on Friday night featuring conjunto/Tejano greats like Mingo Saldivar and Joel Guzman.

So where’s the controversy? Some conservatives have singled out the $25,000 grant given to the festival by the National Endowment of the Arts as an example of misguided government spending during the economic downturn. The SA Current has a good rebuttal from festival organizers, as well as local restaurant and shop owners who benefit greatly from the tourists that the festival draws to downtown San Antonio. Clearly anyone who doesn’t think an accordion festival will help stimulate the economy — or at least stimulate the people attending — has never been to an accordion festival.

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MP3 Monday: Arizona Accordion Club

Hot Original Polkas by the Arizona Accordion ClubOne of the reasons we created our directory was to showcase the numerous accordion clubs across the country working tirelessly to promote our favorite instrument. A great example is the Arizona Accordion Club who, in addition to their monthly meetings, hold an annual festival and even sponsor scholarships for young accordionists.

This year, the club has gone even further with the release of Hot Original Polkas, an album of — you guessed it — original polkas written and performed by members of the club. Each polka has its own flavor and the players range in age from 19 to 80+. The album kicks off with this track written by club member John Smoltz. (Not the baseball player, though he used to play the accordion, too!)