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The Betts Sisters

Elizabeth, Victoria, Catherine and Anna Betts are four sisters who live in Cleveland, Tennessee. They perform frequently in a number of jazz bands, choral groups, wind ensembles, opera casts and orchestras. The Betts sisters have also performed in Ireland and England, and will be performing in Germany summer of 2013. They have studied piano, voice, tuba, percussion, and cello at Lee University, Tennessee Tech, and Middle Tennessee State University.

group photo of the Betts Sisters

Some historians believe that the Betts sisters were the precognitive inspiration for Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, though this conjecture is the source of much controversy. Pictured left to right are Elizabeth, Anna, Victoria, and Catherine.

After starting “All Is Sideways” with Jared Ribble in Nashville, the tour headed east to Cleveland, Tennessee, where my story of good timing, good friends, and good music continued. I stayed with the Betts family for a few days and had time to record all four of the Betts sisters playing different instruments on “All Is Sideways.” I’m still trying to convince them to tour with me and/or start their own band, but they’re all quite humble. Maybe someone else can convince them…

portrait of Elizabeth

Elizabeth

I had to beg, but eventually Elizabeth played her family’s grand piano (one of my favorite pianos I’ve ever played) on “All Is Sideways.” She was reluctant to record at first, claiming that she was out of practice, but after a little encouragement she pounded and plinked out the parts beautifully. Her piano playing gives the song it’s weight on the down beat, ghostly footsteps in the choruses, and airy levity in the bridge. Practice, schmractice…


portrait of Victoria

Victoria

When I suggested to the Betts ladies that it might be fun to record them all playing on my album, Tori (as she is known to friends and family) asked, “How about marimba? I have one in my room.” I was dumbfounded. Who has a marimba in their bedroom?! She explained that her high school band director had let her take the school’s marimba home for the summer to practice. So Tori worked out the parts and we tracked the marimba right there in her bedroom. I am so pleased that “All Is Sideways” now carries a twinge of James Bond-ness, suggesting themes of international travel, distant locales, and perhaps the aesthetics of a different time. I would not have thought of it, but marimba was exactly what the song called for.


portrait of Catherine

Catherine

Portions of “All Is Sideways” feature the low aches and sickening swells of Catherine’s tuba. Actually, what you hear is Catherine playing four layers of tubas, which we jokingly referred to as the “TubaFour.” Her playing reminds me of the unfathomable depths of the ocean, the groaning steel of a sinking sea vessel, and the enormity of heavenly bodies slowly turning in space. Those images are precisely the type of scenes I wanted to capture in this song, but wasn’t sure how to accomplish it until Catherine and I sat down in the basement to record her playing these parts. I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Catherine also played tuba on “Oceans of Blood” and helped to organize all of the players of the orchestra featured in that song. Many thanks to her for managing that circus!


portrait of Anna

Anna

In addition to marimba, Tori had a vibraphone tucked away in her room. (Again, who has a vibraphone in their bedroom?!) So of course we had to record that too. I didn’t know it until that day, but apparently I am very opinionated about vibraphone. Anna was so patient, kind, and sweet in dealing with my very particular instructions on precise placement of the notes she had to hit. Her parts play with the marimba in a stereo effect and create another layer of dimensionality that adds to the mystery “All Is Sideways.”

Collectively, the Betts sisters say:

We were honored to partner with Scott Troyer in the creation of his new album.