Bette & Wallet
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Bette & Wallet

Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE

Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE
Band Folk World


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"Antigonish native releases CD"

After finishing their bilingual album Voici, the duo Bette and Wallet will be promoting their work with two shows in Antigonish next week.
Featuring Antigonish native Mary Beth Carty and Gabriel Ouellette of St. Marc, Quebec, Bette and Wallet will perform their unique musical stylings at Chuggles Restaurant and the Antigonish Heritage Museum during the month of June.
Carty said she left Antigonish when she was 18 to study literature and philosophy at University of King's College in Halifax.
"I had a band called the Johnson Sisters," she said, but after finishing university, the band members were drifting apart.
"I wanted to go on an adventure, so I thought it would be cool to move to Quebec," she said. "I signed up to do an English teaching job."
Carty said she was placed in a suburb of Quebec City, where she continued to pursue her love of music, and began playing in a Brazilian folk band called Ser et Nata.
"One day I realized, here I am playing Brazilian folk music, and I don't really even know how to play music from Nova Scotia – I don't really know how to accompany a fiddler."
Carty said she began going to ses-sions at an Irish pub where fiddlers, guitar and banjo players performed to improve her accompanying skills.
"I would sit down at the piano, but I didn't know any of the tunes," she said. "They would play Quebecois traditional tunes that I'd never heard before, but I'm pretty brave, so I would sit and start playing."
While attending the sessions, she met Ouellette, and they began playing together.
"He, interestingly enough, was learning a lot of Nova Scotian tunes. When he came over to my apartment one day, he played Antigonish Polkas on his fiddle."
Ouellette's neighbour was a fan of Cape Breton fiddle music, Carty said, whom he learned about East Coast music from.
"I was really excited to find someone who I could learn the music of where I'm from with."
From there, the two began sharing songs from their home provinces and putting together songs.
"Right from the beginning we wanted to make a CD – we just got so excited thinking about all the possibili-ties."
After spending the summer in Nova Scotia in 2004, Carty and Ouellette returned to Quebec and received a grant to make the CD.
"We worked on it for a really long time," she said. "We recorded it at our house. Gabe has really amazing ears and has done a lot of recording in the past, so it sounds really good. We're really proud of that."
Carty sings, as well as plays piano, guitar and accordion on the album.
"My favourite instrument right now is the accordion," she said. "I really love it."
All the songs on Voici "recycled," she added.
"We take a lot of melodies from traditional songs and we write new lyrics," she said. "Sometimes we'll sing traditional and write a new melody that will go after the tune."
One song on the album was written by Al Tuck and Matthew Grimson of Halifax, Carty said, and she has learned it while still with the Johnson Sisters.
"(Gabe) put this Scottish tune The Haggis with it," she said. "It has the same key and the same kind of cord modulation, so it fit really well."
The aim of the album was to make something new out of some old ideas, she said.
"We're putting things together in a way that you wouldn't expect."
Bette and Wallet will be performing Friday, June 20, at Chuggles and Satur-day June 21, during a Summer Solstice Tea Party at the Antigonish Heritage Museum.
"I love Antigonish so much," she said. "I really miss it when I'm not there, and I'm really excited about playing at Chuggles because I really love going there. I think we can really rock the place, even with our acoustic instruments."
CDs will also be available for pur-chase at the show.
The Summer Solstice Tea Party will take place at 2 p.m. at the Antigonish Heritage Museum, where Carty used to work.
"It's a place I really love going to whenever I'm in Antigonish. There's always something new to discover."
For more information on Bette and Wallet, visit their website at Six songs from the album can be heard on the website. - Antigonish Casket

"Penguin Eggs Article - Summer 2008"

Very few artists or bands in Canada are able to work on both sides of the language divide with the ease and bonhomie of Québec City duo Bette and Wallet. Folk multi-instrumentalists Mary Beth Carty (Bette) and Gabriel Ouellette (Wallet) make a point of balancing matériel en français and English in their songbag.

The even-handed approach isn’t without its challenges.

“When people ask if our music is Francophone or Anglophone and we say ‘it’s bilingual’ they don’t know what box to put us in,” says Mary Beth. “And we’ve run into presenters who want us to perform in one language only.”

“What we do simply reflects who we are and where we’re from,” adds Gabriel.

Mary Beth grew up in Nova Scotia and learned to play guitar, piano, and accordion there. Before moving to Q.C. four years ago, she was a member of the Halifax folk trio The Johnson Sisters.

Gabriel - from Portneuf County- joue violon, banjo, guitares éléctriques et acoustiques, mandoline, et bouzouki. He started out in a band doing covers of songs by vintage psychedelic and prog-rock groups like Pink Floyd, then turned to celtic music.

The partners met at the popular Tuesday night trad sessions at Nelligan’s pub, in haute-ville, Québec City, where they quickly picked up the Irish, Scottish, and Quebecois tunes on tap. Soon they began doing gigs, playing for dances, and developing an original repertoire of what they tag ‘musique recyclée’.

“One of our major inspirations is La Bolduc [1894 -1941] who used to take old songs and give them new words with a contemporary edge,” explains Gabriel.

“We feel it’s ‘ecological’ to preserve material while also changing it - sewing things together in ways you wouldn’t expect, like a patchwork quilt,” says Mary Beth.

A prime example is Squeegees, the opening cut of their debut album Voici…Bette & Wallet, released this spring. Mary Beth takes a traditional chanson à répondre [call and response song], and supplies it with fresh lyrics about the plight of windshield-wiping punks whose devotion to their coiffure means going bare-headed outdoors in winter. Maudit! Her verses - in English, with refrain en français, are gently humourous yet also poignant.

“I’m into writing funny songs, though a couple of people who are social workers told me that Squeegees made them cry.”

For Automobiles, Gabriel uses a traditional jig to take a swipe at petrol companies. And for Fonctionnaire Mary Beth recasts a traditional song about weavers as a satirical ditty in English about a civil servant’s week of (non) activities.

Voici…Bette & Wallet, with artwork by Mary Beth, has an appealing homegrown stamp. Everything was recorded in the couple’s apartment, and Gabriel does a meticulous job as sound engineer.

“It’s so exciting to have the CD finally done and in our hands,” he says. “I put aside most of my rock influences, but we’ve recently started reintegrating them in our music, and we’re working on something more éclatant [wild and sonically expansive].”

By Tony Montague
- Canada's Folk, Roots, and World music magazine

"Un disque à développement durable..."

Il faut prononcer «Bette et Oua-Lette», parce que les multi-instrumentistes Mary Beth Carty et Gabriel F. Ouellette poussent les jeux de langue et d'accent jusqu'à les intégrer dans le nom de leur duo. Bette vient de la Nouvelle-Écosse et Wallet, du Québec. Les deux vivent dans la région de Québec. À les écouter, je pense à La Bolduc. Comme si elle s'était dédoublée. Comme si Mary Travers, l'Irlandaise de souche, avait chanté en anglais et que Madame Bolduc avait complété le duo en français. Et à l'instar de la grande soeur des chansonniers du Québec, Bette & Wallet prennent un malin plaisir à recycler les chansons traditionnelles ou simplement anciennes, à changer les mots, à composer, à coller d'autres vieux airs, à se référer à l'actualité en la traitant parfois avec humour. Avec, en plus, le coté débridé et craquant de la voix de Bette, la douceur de Gabriel Ouellette, l'intimité des deux, les références aux cultures du monde non celtique et l'engagement social des années 2000. Ainsi, on chantera les squeegees en hiver, les compagnies de pétrole qui rigolent et les OGM. «Que du bio, il faut manger, Monsanto il faut brûler», clament-ils. Un vrai disque à développement durable... - Yves Bernard

- Le Devoir

"Quebec City bilingual duo launch CD at Ginger's"

Four years after moving to Quebec City, Mary Beth Carty is returning to Halifax to release a CD with her (romantic and musical) partner Gabriel F. Ouellette. Carty brings the Bette and Ouellette brings the Wallet to Bette & Wallet, a bilingual duo driven by accordion, violin and Ouellette's stomping feet. Carty (The Johnson Sisters) met Ouellette while playing at Pub Nelligan's in Quebec. They've played together as Bette & Wallet since 2006.

They call it musique recycle---original songs influenced by their Irish, Scottish and Quebecois roots. Carty is from Antigonish, while Ouellette grew up in St. Marc, Quebec ("a flat rural pit-stop"). "I love writing," Carty says, "and creating new texts to old melodies." "Squeegees" (about contemporary winter punk fashion) is inspired by the traditional song, "Des mitaines pas de pouce en hiver." Bette & Wallet's roots dig deep and wide: Ouellette's previous band, Les Queteux (The Beggars) played music picked up from people singing traditional Quebecois songs. Carty has also played in a Brazilian folk group (Ser et Nata) and is studying Klezmer music this summer with KlezKanada.

Carty plays acoustic guitar and piano and Ouellette plays guitar, banjo et pied (feet). Violin is his favourite instrument; hers is the accordion. Carty likes doing things that seem impossible---like writing songs in French. After she wrote these songs, her Quebecois friends fixed them so they made sense. On Thursday, June 12, at Ginger's Tavern, expect some call-and-response audience participation on "Fonctionnaire" (about a civil servant's after-work routine). Carty promises to debut a tongue-twister of a song called "Tow a Toyota." Instrumental psychedelic/Celtic band Leapfrog will open the night and after Bette & Wallet's set the amps will go off and the music will go on---feel free to bring an instrument.

Thursday, June 12 at Ginger's Tavern. 1662 Barrington, 9pm, $5.

By Sarah Greene
- The Coast

"Multi-talented traditional duo Bette & Wallet..."

...make Halifax their couch this week. Shannon Webb-Campbell settles in.

The bilingual duet Bette & Wallet have brought their kitchen parties into the living room, and the two will take their traditional down-home party to Ginger's Tavern on July 6 with Ruth Minnikin.

"We've been performing our living room tour—the venues have ranged from student dwellings to my parents' house," says Mary Beth Carty, calling from Antigonish. "I highly recommend living room tours. It's totally acoustic, we invite 20 or 30 people and perform. We pass around the hat at the end, and a comment book."

Carty and Gabriel Ouellette are Bette & Wallet, an artful, eclectic folk duo who explore traditional music with piano, accordion, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and foot- stomping. Bette refers to the pronunciation of Mary Beth's name—French speakers tend to drop the H. Ouellette is often mispronounced by English-speakers as "wallet."

"We're a mix of Quebecois and Nova Scotian sounds," says Carty. "People say our voices blend well. We work very well together, we don't argue. Sometimes communica- tion can be hard because of the language differences."

By combing their cultural heritage and mutual infatuation with traditional music, Bette & Wallet draw inspiration from their rural backgrounds. Ouellette spent his youth in St. Marc, QC, and Carty calls Antigonish home. They currently live in Quebec City.

"We met at this bar where we would play, but we didn't really talk to each other in the beginning," she says. "We watched each other from afar with our respective instruments. Eventually this strange old man asked me to play accordion and Gabriel was playing fiddle with him and we just started practicing from there."

According to Bette & Wallet, the traditional music scene in Quebec differs from Nova Scotia, as Halifax tends to be geared toward the tourist crowd and Quebec City is more open and enjoyed by everyone. The duo draws influences from songwriters like Dan Burn, Old Man Leudecke, Al Tuck and fiddler Winston Scotty Fitzgerald-—covers of a song or two by these artists usually tend to slip into their set.

"Traditional music is not important to a lot of people," says Carty. "But it's important to me. I don't do it to keep the spirit alive—it's rousing to play, people like to drink, clap their hands and be happy. There is a lot of interaction and involvement from your


Carty is best known for her time spent with the Halifax trio The Johnson Sisters, while Ouellette was part of Les Queteux (The Beggars). Both musicians are self-taught, but credit these projects as their confidence builders.

"The Johnson Sisters was very important all those years I was in town," she says. "I needed to be making music all the time. It really helped to learn how to be on stage, to go to shows, to encourage your fellow musicians. It really helped me how to learn to sing together and harmonize."

Ouellette firmly believes Carty is the flipside to his coin—he once had to explain to a police officer the reason he was wildly chasing this girl with a guitar strapped to her back was that he was in love with her.

"We give each other inspiration, we agree, we add together," says Ouellette. "We don't want to follow the singer/songwriter genre. We have a common vision, as traditional music is about being a part of a universal thing."

Bette & Wallet have returned to eastern Canada for the summer, yet the future holds plans to record a full-length album in the next year. While they are home the couple intend to perform in various living rooms throughout the Maritime region. Over the next few weeks, be sure to keep the coffee table tidy, throw out the empties and dust the bookshelves—your next phone call might just be Bette & Wallet adding your living room to their tour.

"I have a great vision of a living room tour in Halifax brewing in my mind," says Carty. "My friends don't know it yet, but I'll give them a call and let them know we're coming over. It's going to be the summer of living room tours."

Bette and Wallet w/Ruth Minnikin, Thursday, July 6, at Ginger's, 1662 Barrington, 10pm, $5, 422-4954.
- The Coast

"Critique dans Bang Bang"

C’est une honte qui s’est installée à ma première écoute. Pourquoi n’ai-je pas écouté ça avant? Duo formé de Mary Beth (Bette) et de Gabriel F. Ouellet (Wallet), les chansons ont les saveurs de la Nouvelle-Écosse et du Québec. S’inspirant d’airs traditionnels, le duo y colle des paroles actuelles dans les deux langues, de quoi faire plaisir à feu Trudeau, parlant autant des courageux squeegees pendant l’hiver à Québec que des fonctionnaires et des OGM. On tombe facilement sous le charme de la particulière voix de celle qui se commet parfois sous le nom de Mary Betterave. On ne s’étonne pas qu’ils se soient connus lors de sessions de musique irlandaise étant donné le sucré enrobage celtique des pièces. On doit également féliciter la qualité de l’enregistrement pour un disque fait avec un programme Jeunes Volontaires. (Mike B)

14 juillet 2008 - Mike Bergeron

"Bette & Wallet Interview"

Please introduce Bette & Wallet and give some background behind the band.
I’m Mary Beth Carty (“bet”), and he’s Gabriel Ouellette (“wal-ETTE”). Despite the connotations, we do not gamble… well, actually, Gabriel bought me a scratch Bingo ticket last week.

Bette is the Québécois word for beet, our favourite root vegetable. We play roots music. Sometimes we sing about vegetables, too. We like to hang out with old people and learn from them. We are wanna-be folklorists.

2 . How would you describe your music to someone that has yet to hear you?
Quite simply, we are a two piece band that sounds like a four-piece. The drums are Gabriel’s feet – Romanian shoes on a custom designed board. One of the two of us usually plays rhythm guitar while the other plays lead – banjo, violin, and accordion. Bass - left hand on my accordion. We sing too.

Our music is like a patchwork quilt. There are patches of all colors – Québécois, Nova Scotian, Klezmir, Cajun, even psychedelic rock? Yes - Gabriel used to be a rocker and I used to be a country singer. I am also highly influenced by Brazilian folk music and humorous songwriters like Dan Bern and Louden Wainwright. So it’s a melting pot. On this album we put new words to traditional melodies, dust off old songs, compose old-sounding tunes. We sew together things you wouldn’t expect. We call it recycled music.

3 . What is your musical background? Your music clearly reflects some of your heritage, but how has your experience in the indie/punk/folk/whatever scene come together with traditional inspirations?
I spent much of my adolescence in a mosh pit at Sommers Hall, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The energy of those bands is something we try to emulate, but with acoustic instruments. To me, fiddle music is the equivalent to heavy metal. Gabriel so rocks on the fiddle. I hope someday people will mosh at one of our shows while he plays fiddle. Everything would come together at that very moment. Enfin!

4 . What does Bette & Wallet consider worth fighting for?
Cultural ecology. We are cultural ecologists. People often talk about mono-culture in relation to farming, but the same thing is happening to music! Have you seen music television lately? Ach! It’s aimed at innocent children! They are made to worship these computer-enhanced idols! Meanwhile indigenous cultural traditions and languages are waning and dying because young people don’t think it’s cool. Me and Gab, we teach traditional music to kids. We play, we dance, we sing together with them. Everybody can sing. Everybody can dance. It’s therapeutic, it’s healing. In the old days, music was about the collectivity, community, people getting together and dancing, playing, being the show. In Canada, there was this amazing dance-hall epoch. You had these entire orchestras that would play every night in every small village and town, with a dance caller. That was the popular culture. You can still go to these dances – but you have to know when and where. We want to bring square dancing back to the youth, back to the bars. We want to see people swinging together in rock venues, in the streets, in schools, in living rooms.

5. Is there anything specific you try to communicate through your music?
With the OGM (GMOs) song on our new album, I am trying to communicate sadness and despair in the first part. There is a turning point in the song – everyone comes together and Gab’s driving feet come in – like revolutionaries rising up. I don’t know if that song will cause anything to change, but if it makes people think twice at the grocery store, mission accomplished. On Automobiles and Madamoiselle, la Végétarienne, we want to bring issues up for discussion without telling people what to think.

6 . Do you think it's necessary for independent artists & bands to have a form of ethics?
Yes. Gabriel thinks that indie musicians should form a coalition and go on strike against bars that exploit them. In Québec City now, most places say you have to pay $200 to play. The bars are making money off the backs of musicians, who are creating events, bringing people in. When Gabriel was a teenager, bars paid his band a minimum of $400 a night, that was in the nineties. In the 70s, bands got paid $1000. Things are going down. C’est le monde à l'envers.

7 . You're set to play Sappyfest '08 in August. Have you ever been to Sackville, NB? What attracted you to the festival?
We are so happy to be accepted by the indie-rock community! Paul Henderson and Rose Murphy invited us to come. I have only been to the gas-station, so I’m pretty darn excited about actually entering the town and discovering a new place! From what I hear, Sackville is full of good vibes.

8 . I read that you recorded most of your record Voici pretty much on your own in your home studio, is this correct? How has the DIY ethic influenced the band and how you go about your business?
Yes, this album was made in our bedroom and laundry room. Yves Drolet, an experienced sound engineer – he mixed and mastered it with Gab, who learned a lot. There are so many ways of learning outside of institutions! My theory is: learn to do by doing. We do everything ourselves – recording, artwork, website design, booking, publicity. We didn’t even look for a label. We’re going to plow through it all! In fact we invented our own label, Saspooray.

9. When do you think the best time and situation to listen to Voici is?
In the kitchen at a Sunday afternoon potluck!

10. What do your families think of the band?
Our families are so supportive. Gab’s Dad and step-mom served wine and p’tit bouchés for our cd release party in Deschambault. Gab’s mom brings different friends every time she comes to a show (and she comes often!). His brother let us take over his house for a whole morning to record piano tracks. My parents hosted a house concert for us, and my mom lent me her car to do a tour of Newfoundland (we ended up touring Cape Breton instead). My mom (the lovely Sara Carty) is organising the biscuits for our cd release tea party at the Antigonish Heritage Museum. Our music is family music, for oldest of the old and the youngest of the young.

11. What is your favourite dance party song?
On Voici… there are a lot of good dance party songs. I would have to say my favourite would be the polka at the end of Pantalons. Nothing gets a party going like a good polka – in the old days, Antigonish was known as the Polka Capital of Nova Scotia.

12. How can ppl contact you?
We have beautiful new homemade website – Our e-mail is

13. Final words?
N'ayez pas peur. La force est en chacun de vous. Vous avez droit à l'erreur, vous êtes humains. Aimez et vous serez aimés. Le futur est maintenant. Cherchez le bonheur. Débranchez vos frigos pour l'amour de la terre.
- Matt Dixon,

"Bette & Wallet Bring New Meaning to the Accordion"

Charming folk duo played concert on November 6th

By Shannon Tien

On Thursday, November 6th, Chuggles fans had the distinct pleasure of hearing from the charming, half-local duet, Bette and Wallet. In an intimate setting, made cozily entertaining by the use of candles and dim lighting, Mary-Beth Carty (from Antigonish) and Gabriel Oulette provided our modestly sized audience with proof that the accordion deserves credit as a musical instrument after all.

Mary-Beth and Gab both agree that, when forced to choose a label, they would call themselves traditional/alternative, receiving a wide range of invites to folk, Celtic and Indie music festivals.

Mary-Beth, who formerly sang in the Haligonian girl band “The Johnson Sisters,” which she claims was largely influenced by American country music, tells the story of her decision to play traditional music simply:

“Well, I was living in Quebec; I was playing in this Brazilian band and I realized that I really didn’t know how to play traditional music from Nova Scotia. Being in Quebec everyone always asks, in hearing my accent, where I was from so I decided to try and learn.”

Gabriel coincidentally was doing the same thing, at the same time.

“So I started going to this Irish pub on Tuesday nights there was a jam and a piano in the corner, that’s where I met Gabriel who was also learning how to play traditional music,” Mary-Beth continued.

Gabriel added, “Yes, at the time I was moving from the electric guitar to the fiddle, which I adapted just as if it was an electric instrument, in fact.”

It seems like fate. The two of them, who claim to play anything they can get their hands on (accordion, banjo, guitar, triangle, pots and pans, etc.), have been performing together for two years. Using Gabriel’s feet as the unique and solitary form of percussion, the two seem to have perfected the art of putting on a heart-warming show. Transitioning between songs with delightful anecdotes and cracking jokes about Antigonish, they even inspired members of the audience to get up and dance. This reporter considered the stand out songs of the night to include “Squeegees” and “Rossignolet.”

“We recycle songs,” said Mary-Beth, laughing, “For us it’s a part of preserving these old ways of writing songs, kind of the oral tradition, memory. The songs are easy to remember, a way to understand the psychology of memory, in a way.”

To provide an example of what is meant by the term “recycle,” Mary-Beth used “Squeegees” as an example.

“In Quebec City there are a lot of punks hanging around, so it was inspired by that. There was this one particular day, it was soooo cold out and I was like, “Oh my god, how can he not have a hat on?” That song was originally about lumberjacks, we recycled it and made it into a more contemporary theme. And I haven’t really met anybody who’s written a song about squeegee kids.”

This reporter thought she left her fascination with folk music behind in high school, but Bette and Wallet’s unique approach to the traditional tones of folk have left her revisiting her hippie adolescence, and without an inch of regret. At once charming and confident, hip and totally un-cool, Bette and Wallet are the future of the customary Nova Scotian banjo. At the very least, they definitely deserve a visit from you via their myspace page.

- Xaviern Weekly

"Review of Voici... Bette & Wallet"

Bette is Mary Beth Carty, singer, accordeon and pianist from Nova Scotia and Wallet is Gabriel F. Ouellette from Quebec, singer fiddle, banjo and guitar player and foot-tapper. There is enough evidence on their debut album by this young duo to show that here are considerable, exciting talents. They have synthesised a number of traditional influences to come up with a distinctive and vibrant approach incorporating the diverse Canadian dance music tradition and their call-and-response singing along with blues, klezmer and Cajun influences. There is also evidence in their observant, everyday song-writing that they have listened well to that icon of Québecois music, Mary Bolduc.

They are both solid instrumentalists and would probably achieve recognition without the outstanding calibre that gives them their undoubted star quality. Singing in French and English, often within the same song, Bette's memorable voice continues to ring in your head long after you have stopped listening. The quality and tone of her voice is reminiscent of La Talvera's Céline Ricard but Bette's delivery is less cool, more passionate. Here she has some very fine songs to display these talents, including Squeegees, Minister's Daughter, OGM, Fonctionaire and Family Photo, all except the last named composed by Bette.

This is much better than any home-recorded first album ought to be.

Vic Smith

- fRoots, England

"Bette & Wallet: Traditional Music Their Way"

By Ellen Simpson
Mary Beth Carty and Gabriel F. Ouellette, professionally known as Bett & Wallet (pronounced bet and wal-ette) classically trained in piano, create unique eclectic music that is reminiscent of the 1960s’ coffee house scene in places such as Yorkville in Toronto.
Mary Beth sings, plays the accordion, piano and guitar with the accordion being her favourite. Gabriel sings, plays piano, fiddle, guitar and banjo. In addition, he uses his feet to add a percussion sound to their music. Mary Beth effortlessly changes between English and French lyrics in the songs. Bette & Wallet recycle traditional Quebecois and Celtic music to create an interesting cross-cultural blend.
The blending of tradition and our modern culture is illustrated in the song Squeegees. Mary Beth was fascinated by the ‘squeegee kids’ in Quebec City, the local punk population, who sported the Mohawk hair and who, in sub-zero temperatures, “won’t be caught dead wearing earmuffs”. The ‘squeegee kids’ are vintage 21st century whose lifestyle gave rise to a song by this alternative music duo. The instrumental for this song came from the traditional song Les Miitaines pas de pouces en hiver but the lyrics reflect contemporary life.
Mary Beth began her musical career at an ‘open mike’ bar in Halifax where she and a friend, Annie, casually signed up to do 2 or 3 songs. At the time Mary Beth was a student at King’s College. Gordon Roach, a talented local musician, heard them and asked who they were and was told, ‘off the cuff’, the Johnson sisters. Mary Beth and Annie recruited a friend, Becky Simon, and became the Johnson Sisters band. Gordon Roach organized musical shows and his next in Halifax featured the Johnson Sisters. This rather accidental group, performing together for about 3 years, gave Mary Beth more confidence on the stage as well as helping her to learn how to sing and harmonize in a group. Mary Beth describes their music as traditional American country and western. The song, Family Photo, on Bette & Wallet’s CD Voici, and written by Al Tuck and Matthew Grimson, was rediscovered during an impromptu recording with Al Tuck and the Johnson Sisters. For the CD, Gabriel added the instrumental, The Haggis, an old Scottish tune.
Gabriel began playing the guitar at age 14 and belonged to a group, which played mostly Beatle music in bars around his home village in Portneuf County, Quebec. These underage band members were accompanied by a parent whose job, in addition to being a chaperone, was to request payment from the bar owners. Soon, however, Gabriel began to play psychedelic rock on the electric guitar. The decibel level was such that the group was required to play outside during the summer months. Later, Gabriel began playing the accordion and then the fiddle, his favourite instrument. Through listening to records his father had of musicians playing music in and around Portneuf County, Gabriel learned traditional music. Jean Marie LaFramboise, a fiddler as well as a neigbour, began playing with Gabriel and, among others, taught him two difficult tunes played in the key of F. These first fiddle tunes learned by Gabriel were The Millburn’s and Alexander Thom’s Hornpipes, the music of the iconic Cape Breton fiddler, Winston ‘Scotty’ Fitzgerald. Mary Beth says, “Gabriel didn’t know that F was a difficult key to play”.
Gabriel added the percussion, through the pied, to the music of Bette & Wallet. Mary Beth says percussion, the drummer so to speak, was missing from the music of the Johnson Sisters and in Bette & Wallet it became a significant ingredient. The tapping foot is very much present in Quebec traditional music and was a part of the original shape of dance music – a single fiddler tapping his feet while playing for people to dance.
Improvisation, a vital part of the Bette & Wallet music, will often catch the listener unawares. This can take the form of a traditional melody having extra beats, for example, adding a measure of 2/4 onto the 4/4 time of a reel. Pantalon is a melody that mixes Quadrille des Laurentides 3 and Polo March finishing off with a polka, Southern Melodies. The unexpected comes after the lyrics when Gabriel breaks into the polka, a traditional piece played by Winston ‘Scotty’ Fitzgerald. Similarly, Jeannette, in Voici, is a song that changes time signatures. There is a pause at the end then the music changes from 3/4 time to 6/8. Mary Beth composed this tune Cajun Strathspey in honor of “her blue-souled Scottish dad.”
Mixing traditional with elements of modern day culture and making it popular is the musical dream of this duo; making it happen is what they work to achieve. Mary Beth and Gabriel, when time permits, work at a school, Jeunes Musiciens du Monde. The school is for economically disadvantaged children in their neighbourhood of St. Sauveur in Quebec City. Two brothers from Quebec started the school, now having 4 locations, the first in India and three in Quebec. The brothers recognized the need to keep traditional cultures alive through the teaching of music and the telling of stories to young people. The school in St. Sauveur teaches traditional Quebecois music often with Irish and Scottish elements included in the mix. Mary Beth teaches piano, step dancing and improv. Gabriel teaches basic musical culture, which includes some history of music, instruments and theory. Operating expenses are covered through fundraisers such as concerts in Quebec City and Montreal, which feature popular artists. Mary Beth says this very rewarding work is much more satisfying than her first job teaching English in a Quebec elementary school.
Stories help to make both adults and children aware and proud of their roots, which is why so many have been turned into songs. Mary Beth often tells stories, just as she does in the school, to introduce songs. In their CD Voici, the song, Fonctionnaire, tells us that the fonctionnaire, (meaning Civil Servant but having a nicer ring to it), does much more than his/her government job during the workweek. The melody for this story was borrowed from Les Tisserands, a song about weavers. Damage to the environment is the story behind the song, Automobiles. This song was composed the day Gabriel opened a window to let in what he hoped would be fresh air, instead, receiving a big whiff of carbon monoxide. The melody was recycled from a tune by Andre Alain, a traditional fiddle player from Portneuf County.
The blending of traditional Quebecois and Celtic music is very important to Mary Beth and Gabriel and they find it rousing to play and are motivated from interaction with the audience. They see value in having small venues such as the impromptu ‘sessions’ one can find in parts of Quebec where local people participate. Mary Beth and Gabriel would be quite comfortable playing their music in County Clare, Ireland where the pubs have a reserved table for “the music”. Here the performers are on the level of their audience rather than elevated and there is always audience participation. People travel to County Clare for the music much like they do in Quebec and Cape Breton.
Mary Beth grew up an environment where music and dance engage the whole community. Local dances featuring both square and Scottish Country were held at the local school in Lanark, Nova Scotia where Mary Beth was raised. Many traditional dances require a caller and Mary Beth can call, among others, Mabou Square Set and Strip the Willow. The latter is a folk dance with longwise sets of 6 couples, the men on the right and the women on the left. Traditionally this was a dance done in the bush to the music of Soldier’s Joy. Dance callers are popular in Quebec but not so much today in Nova Scotia. In addition to the community dances, there were informal gatherings, known as a ceilidh, held in people’s homes and these are excellent venues for young musicians to gain experience. Kendra and Troy McGillivray, cousins and neighbours, as well as popular musicians in Nova Scotia, had a role in influencing Mary Beth’s future musical career.
In January 2009 Mary Beth and Gabriel, themselves, had the opportunity to influence young musicians when they participated in the Festival francophone de Pralognan-la-Vanoise in Rhone-Alps, France. During the week, in addition too entertaining in restaurants and bars in the mountains as well as two concerts, they led workshops in foot tapping and spoons. A major highlight was the evening Mary Beth and Gabriel faced a somber group but their enthusiasm soon had rousing audience participation in the singing of traditional songs as well as dancing. Mary Beth says the wine may have helped. A second highlight was the positive response Gabriel received with his new song, which is the adaptation of a traditional tune to the lyrics about the current economic crisis. The song is about boxing day sales and debt.
This was their second trip to France; the first trip was in November of 2008 when they received appreciation from the environment minister of France for their song about GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Mary Beth and her friend, Jean-Baptiste, wrote the song called OGM, and which Mary Beth sings on Voici. This lively air is based on a French traditional song, Compagnons de la marjolaine, and the lyrics speak to the environmental concerns of today.
Mary Beth and Gabriel have received recognition at home; in 2008 they were nominated for Traditional Group Recording and Francophone Recording of the year by the East Coast Music Awards and in the same year nominated for Traditional Recording and Francophone Recording by Nova Scotia Music Awards. Mary Beth, in 2008, was nominated Traditional Singer of the Year at Canadian Folk Music Awards. During 2009 Bette & Wallet are scheduled to appear at several places (listed on their web site) in Central and Eastern Canada.
Mary Beth and Gabriel’s are realizing their dream to travel, interpret and play traditional music. “We feel it’s ‘ecological’ to preserve material while also changing it – sewing things together in ways you wouldn’t expect, like a patchwork quilt, “ says Mary Beth in a 2008 interview with Tony Montague an Edmonton critic. The essence of their work is in the recycling of tradition with modern aspects of our society to make music that speaks to us today; music that is intergenerational. Mary Beth’s sketchbook contains images of other artists, places, things – these images are a channel for thinking about music. It is about music through image. Visit their website at to read more and to hear a sample of music from Voici. It is a wonderful philosophical musical experience. - Cover Story: Celtic Life Magazine


Voici... Bette & Wallet

1. Squeegees
2. Automobiles
3. Rossignolet
4. Family Photo
5. La Parvenue
6. Fonctionnaire
7. Jeannette
8. Mademoiselle
9. OGM
10. Minister's Daughter
11. Pantalon
12. Mort cruelle

Our cd has music has been played on national and regional radio, including CBC and Radio-Canada.

The album has charted on community radio stations in Halifax, Montreal, and Ottawa, and the song OGM climbed CIBL Radio Montréal's Top 5.

Winner - Best Debut Album - Record Store's Choice Award - at the Gala de Musique de Québec.

Nominated at the 2009 East Coast Music Awards for Traditional Group Recording and Francophone Recording of the Year.

Nominated at the 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards for Traditional Singer of the Year (Bette)

Nominated at the 2008 Nova Scotia Music Awards for Traditional recording and Francophone recording.



Ever since Mary Beth Carty of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and Gabriel F. Ouellette of Portneuf, Québec met at an Irish Pub in 2005, nothing has been the same. Their début album Voici…Bette & Wallet has earned them ECMA and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations and invitations to festivals in France and Canada. With Bette’s creative accordion playing and dynamic voice, with Gabriel’s deft pick and infectious foot-rhythm, Bette & Wallet (bet et wall-ette) have been known to turn punk-rock bars into square-dance floors!

To describe their music, Mary Beth coined the term ‘musique recyclée’ referring to their practice of mixing traditional melodies with contemporary lyrics. Squeegees kids, genetic modification, haunted condos – Bette & Wallet inevitably have audiences singing along to crazy choruses. Their Nova Scotian and Québécois roots mix with Klezmer, Cajun, and Irish tendencies to create a colourful musical patchwork you can dance to.

Mary Beth Carty...
...Mary Beth Carty grew up in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains on a spit of land over-looking the Antigonish Harbour, in Nova Scotia. Surrounded by a gang of third cousins, she spent her childhood creating songs, dances, plays, and other dream worlds. Already a prodigious pianist and highland dancer, Mary Beth discovered guitar and bass at 15 and formed bands with local musicians. She moved to Halifax at 18 to attend the Univeristy of King's College, studying literature and contemporary studies.

There she discovered her talent as a songwriter, forming The Johnson Sisters, and took part in a King's Dance Collective, and many other interdisciplinary artistic projects. A sense of adventure brought her to Québec in 2004, where she worked as an English language monitor, then an ESL grade four teacher at a private school. She played in a Brazilian folk band before meeting Gabriel and forming Bette & Wallet. Mary Beth has been nominated ‘Traditional Singer of the Year’ at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, studied Jewish music and dance at KlezKanada, and composed music for film. She taught piano and dance at the Jeunes Musiciens du Monde École de Musique for 3 three years, and is now a full-time folkie.

Gabriel Ouellette...
... was born outside the quarrie town of St-Marc, Quebec, and spent much of his youth in the forest building tree houses. At 13, after years of classical piano, he and his friends formed rock bands and immediatley started playing gigs. Gabriel composed songs and became a saught-after guitar teacher. Gabriel studied history at CEGEP and attained an art history degree from Laval University, even starting a masters.

He eventually traded in the electric amplifiers for the fiddle, and started a band called Les Queteux (The Beggars), collected folk songs from Portneuf county, and started hanging with his Nova Scotian tune-obsessed neighbor, Jean-Marie. He has studied violin with Martin Racine (La Bottine Sourriante) and has taught musical culture, fiddle, and composition at Jeunes Musiciens du Monde École de Musique in Québec City. Gabriel is a talented sound engineer with a portable home studio, and he engineered Voici…Bette & Wallet and many other sound-art, film, and album projects. He was featured on Louis-Simon and Daniel Lemieux's album, and is a performer for the Explorica educational tours company each spring. He plans on publishing a book of the tunes of André Alain, a fiddler and composer from Portneuf County.