Happy Valley Vinyl (signed)
Happy Valley Vinyl (signed)
1 Blue Smoke feat. Marty Stuart
2 Happy Valley feat. Dominick Leslie
3 Grassy Cove feat. Sierra Hull
4 Get Lost feat. Jake Workman
5 Little Pigeon feat. Scott Napier
6 Johnson Mtn Blues feat. David McLaughlin
7 Sandy Gap feat. Mike Compton
8 Goin’ to Townsend feat. Alan Bibey
9 Two Rivers feat. Danny Roberts
10 Wildwood feat. Lauren Price Napier
11 Whites Creek feat. Christopher Henry
12 Maryville feat. David Harvey
Happy Valley is a collection of twelve instrumental tunes written or co-written by Wyatt Ellis when he was twelve years old, and recorded when he was thirteen. The debut album, produced by Justin Moses, is a vivid snapshot of the young musician’s boundless musical creativity and curiosity in its earliest stages and features a staggering number of special guests who were eager to support Ellis on his first recordings. Featured guests include Marty Stuart, Sierra Hull, Dominick Leslie, Jake Workman, Scott Napier, David McLaughlin, Mike Compton, Alan Bibey, Danny Roberts, Lauren Price Napier, Christopher Henry, and David Harvey.
Wyatt Ellis’ connection to the bluegrass music community began in the darkest, most isolated days of the pandemic, as the then-10-year-old mandolin player began musical exploration at the virtual knees of his heroes. When access to regional musicians at local jams and lessons vanished, he turned to online lessons from professional musicians who were also stuck at home. During the first year of the quarantine, Wyatt’s fascination with the eight-stringed instrument grew exponentially. He went from playing mandolin a few hours a week to playing mandolin a few hours a day. By the second year, Wyatt was writing and co-writing tunes that, while respecting the traditions of mountain music, began to evoke a sense of excitement and discovery in everyone around him.
Happy Valley, named for a holler’ near his home in East Tennessee, showcases the skill of a thirteen-year-old Wyatt playing alongside his mandolin heroes, backed by an all-star bluegrass band. Produced by Justin Moses, the project was serendipitously recorded on Happy Valley Road, a homestead once owned by Grand Ole Opry member Grandpa Jones and his wife Ramona outside of Nashville, in an out-building turned state-of-the-art studio now known as The Tractor Shed. Although purely coincidental, the picturesque title reflects not only a love of Tennessee’s natural beauty but also the rich musical legacy of the musicians who were here before him. Rooted in tradition but adventurous in spirit, Happy Valley illustrates Wyatt’s reverence for the genre’s pioneers, as well as a respect for its trailblazers.
Throughout Happy Valley, Wyatt switches styles with ease, from the upbeat twin mandolins of Grassy Cove to the haunting Two Rivers Waltzwhich features Wyatt playing Vassar Clements’ fiddle. Alongside the whistleable melody of the title track, Happy Valley, tunes such as Maryville, Goin’ to Townsend, and Little Pigeon were inspired by his childhood in East Tennessee. Wyatt pays homage to the clean, bluesy playing of David McLaughlin, one of his mentors and closest friends, on Johnson Mountain Blues while Whites Creek, Wildwood, and Sandy Gap, tunes that mirror the tradition and style of Bill Monroe, were co-written with three of the genre’s top Monroe-style mandolin players. Get Lost, a tune named as a nod to the legacy of Johnny Cash, showcases Wyatt’s more progressive musical leanings; the many meanings of the familiar phrase and what it may have meant to Johnny flashed through Wyatt’s mind the day Marty Stuart recorded his iconic solo on Wyatt’s rousing fiddle tune Blue Smoke at Cash Cabin.
Happy Valley is a vivid snapshot of Wyatt Ellis' boundless musical creativity and curiosity in its earliest stages. Throughout his debut album, the young multi-instrumentalist effortlessly layers his respect for the history and tradition of bluegrass with humble virtuosity. At any age, an album this impressive is an incredible accomplishment. However, in referencing Wyatt Ellis, mentions of his age become irrelevant. Taken together, these twelve tunes seem to echo from somewhere beyond his years, beyond Wyatt’s home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains; echoes that are still there, still alive, still inspiring, still pulsing the way they have been since the beginning of time — guided by the ancient tones to which we are all connected.