Stepdancing and Saskatoon/ BY Michael Lohr, Spring 2010 Issue
Click the below to read April’s feature article in Celtic Life Magazine!
Gazette, Cedar Rapids, IA/ BY DIANA NOLLEN, April 7, 2010
April Verch blends country and Celtic with artistry flying off her fiddling bow and reedy, lilting vocals.
She’s a Canadian champion fiddler, step-dancer and singer. Her latest CD, “Steal the Blue,” is a lovely collection of mournful vocal ballads and lively Celtic reels, occasionally touching down in bluegrass territory.
So maybe she’s stealing the “blue” out of both bluegrass and a melancholy mood.
The disc starts with a sweet ode to enjoying life’s little moments before they slip away, then slides smoothly into “Some People” and the various paths they take when facing life’s and lows. It’s a haunting heartbreak song, a theme that’s repeated in “I Might Have One Too,” “You Hurt Me All Over Again” and “The Lonely Road Back Home.” Her violin even cries on the all-instrumental “Independence, Va” that she wrote.
Balancing the blue moods are lively reels is the rousing “My Friend Craig,” where Verch fires up her fiddle and flies over the steady, hollow beat of the bodhran.
Verch and her band show their country leanings on “The Last Greyhound.” Guitars twang through this all-too-familiar tale of a young girl leaving her home, spreading her wings in search of whatever was missing, only to discover it was there all along.
“Steal the Blue” ends with a gospel flair from “He’s Holding Onto Me” and its especially poignant line, “I’m not holding onto Jesus, he’s holding onto me.” Plucky banjo and mandolin help spirit it along a bluegrass trail before the band breaks out the spoons for a pair of reels that kick the mood from blue to red-hot.
Catch your breath, then catch the band in action Wednesday night (4/14/10) at CSPS in Cedar Rapids.
Herald Palladium/ BY JEREMY BONFIGLIO, January 28, 2010
BENTON HARBOR – April Verch’s passion for both dance and music are so intertwined that the 31-year-old tunesmith never thought about separating the two.
“I just always figured they were two things that I loved that I could do together,” Verch says by telephone from her home in Pembroke, Ontario. “‘Which one am I going to do?’ was never something I had to consciously decide because it was always my hope that I could lead a band so I’d be able to incorporate them both.”
Fronting the roots-based trio, the April Verch Band, has allowed her to do just that. Verch, who started dancing at age 3 and playing the fiddle at age 6, will incorporate everything from old-timey to bluegrass to the stepdancing traditions of Canada’s Ottawa Valley when she performs Sunday at The Livery in Benton Harbor. But just hours before she takes The Livery stage, Verch also will hold a two-hour stepdancing workshop at The Citadel Dance & Music Center.
“The dancing is something that sticks out because it looks pretty different from anything most people have seen before,” Verch says. “So just having a chance to share that with people – especially dancers – and offering them a new style to incorporate into what they do is always really fun.”
Verch’s dancing and fiddle playing are both strongly rooted in the musical traditions of Canada’s Ottawa Valley, where she and her family have lived for generations.
The region stretches from Ottawa, westward along the shores of the Ottawa River, to the northern tip of Algonquin Park. Immigrants from France, Scotland, Ireland, Poland and Germany, who were drawn to the region’s logging camps, brought with them a passion for fiddle music.
Those without an instrument would often use their feet to accompany the music, and the form of dance, now known as Ottawa Valley stepdancing, developed. Fiddle music and stepdancing continue to be prevalent throughout the valley and still inform Verch’s style today.
“My parents were fans of that whole scene,” Verch says. “We were always dancing to fiddle music, and I just fell in love with the instrument and the energy of the music.”
By age of 10, Verch, who had already decided to make music her life’s work, was touring Canada and winning fiddle contests.
“There weren’t a lot of kids in my school that played fiddle or danced, and every weekend during the summer we’d go to a contest and I’d get to hang out with other kids who loved to do what I did,” Verch says.
“There was a huge social aspect to it that was very encouraging.”
By the time she finished high school, Verch had recorded her first two self-released albums, 1992’s “Springtime” and 1995’s “Fiddle Talk.” While attending the annual Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp in Nashville, Verch met Matt Glaser, the chair of the string department at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, who convinced her to come study at the school.
“I realized that it was somewhere I’d be able to go and study and that I’d be able to play whatever I wanted to play,” Verch says. “They weren’t going to make me play jazz or classical, but they would help me figure out my own style and that’s really what drew me to the program.”
During her time at Berklee, Verch says, the exposure to other musical styles became infectious.
“What I really realized at that time was how sheltered I had been musically,” Verch says. “I had traveled Canada and a little bit in the States, and I knew about different styles of fiddle music, but I hadn’t heard a lot of world music or jazz. It just really opened up a world of possibilities for me in music.”
Verch left Berklee after a year, capping her fiddle contest career with the titles of Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion and Canadian Open Fiddle Champion, and in 2000 signed with Rounder Records. After releasing 2001’s “Verchuosity,” the label asked Verch if she had considered singing as well.
“I said, ‘No I don’t really,'” Verch says, laughing. “They told me it would open up some doors, and it might be something worrth exploring. That’s what led me to do it.”
Her next album, 2003’s “Where I Stand,” produced by old-time music favorite Bruce Molsky, included Verch’s vocals on the Carter Family favorite, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight.” Roots music master Dirk Powell produced the next album, “Take Me Back” (2006), with a new emphasis on songs and arrangements with broader and roots-leaning appeal.
“I felt really vulnerable at first,” Verch says. “I’d been doing everything else for so long, and voice is just so out there. You can’t hide if you’re tired or your sick. It took awhile, but I do enjoy doing it and audiences seem to like it so I’ve kept at it.”
Verch’s latest recording, 2008’s “Steal the Blue” (Slab Town Records), is the first album that showcases her vocals. Co-produced by Stephen Mougin of the Sam Bush Band and Jon Weisberger, “Steal The Blue” features Verch’s touring band – Clay Ross on guitar and Cody Walters on upright-electric bass and banjo – alongside guest songwriters, vocalists and instrumentalists such as Tim Stafford, Larry Cordle, Ron Block, Melonie Cannon, and Travis Book.
The record is Verch’s most eclectic to date, featuring elements of bluegrass, jazz and melodic old-timey music.
The album includes “My Friend Craig,” a rollicking modern fiddle tune, Hayes Carll’s “Long Way Home,” dressed up with harmony and a bluegrass influence, an old-timey medley “Fork Creek River,” which includes her own arrangement of a John Hartford tune, and a Ron Block-penned gospel number, “He’s Holding On To Me.”
“I think I’ll always be a fiddler first, but singing has been a really good outlet,” Verch says, “and I love lyrics, so adding songs to a repertoire of all tunes has been really neat to me.”
In addition to the songs on “Steal The Blue,” Verch and her band will road test some new material at The Livery show that includes medleys of old-time tunes from Virginia, a couple bluegrass standards, and some as-yet-untitled originals penned by Verch and Ross. She also hopes to convince some of the dancers from her two-hour workshop to join her on stage and show off some of that Ottawa Valley stepdancing.
“It’s kind of an added bonus,” Verch says. “I really love what I do, and I feel really fortunate to be able to share it with people.”
Cleveland Independent/ BY DARYL ROWLAND, January 21, 2010
If you’re not yet a fan of April Verch, the talented Canadian fiddle player, singer, and dancer, you may wonder why she is playing at Cleveland’s premier Jazz club, Nighttown. If you’re a fan, the date’s already in your cell phone for Jan. 28.
Verch plays a lot of traditional Canadian fiddle music, but along with her world class accompanists, Clay Ross on guitar and Cody Walker on upright bass, she displays an eclectic range of styles and a level of intelligence, soul and nuanced playing that seem well suited for a sophisticated club like Nighttown. As it happens, Verch studied under Matt Glazer at the Berklee College of Music, known best for its Jazz Alumni. Listeners may notice hints of Vassar Clements and Stephane Grappelli.
Verch has been called a triple threat for her killer fiddling, dancing, and singing abilities, but I’d be remiss not to point out that she is in fact a quadruple: on stage she could be mistaken for a perfectly complected fashion model with a fiddle for a prop (read: smokin’ hot). And then, she tears into her first blazing riff.
The set planned for Nighttown includes tunes from her critically well-received and most recent CD, “Steal the Blue,” which features a good deal of Verch’s mellifluous vocal work. She says of her song selection, “I chose songs that I’d enjoy listening to. As it turned out, that meant more vocal songs.”
Although Verch had long been known for her fiddling and dancing, her singing has emerged with depth and resonance on par with her instrumental chops. She does a haunting rendition of “Long Way Home” on the album. Also listen for gospel number, “He’s Holding On to Me,” which she treats with great power and restraint.
And of course there’s the dancing—the traditional physical expression of joy compelled by foot-stomping reels, such as “Reels Tadoussac et Lindbergh.” For a preview of some of her fancy stepping, take a look at her Web site: AprilVerch.com.
The young lady hails from Pembroke, Ontario in the Ottawa Valley and has been playing fiddle and dancing since the age of six. Since then, she’s been winning audiences and building devoted fans all around the globe, touring 250 days a year across Canada, the USA, Europe and Asia.
Verch grew up watching the local masters of old time Canadian fiddling and dancing from the Ottawa Valley. When she began to fiddle and dance herself, it seemed to her more an inevitable step than a choice. “The music was so energetic. And I was a hyper kid,” she said.
Recently, Verch has been listening to a lot of John Hartford as well as traditional Canadian fiddlers such as Graham Townsend and Tommy McQueston, men whose regional styles were exposed to a wider audience thanks to fiddler Don Messer’s Jubilee TV show in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Before letting Verch get back to preparing material for her next recording, I asked her which living artists she’d most like to play with. She quickly mentioned Allison Krauss and Loretta Lynn. If either of them happen to be on the East side of Cleveland Jan. 28, I hope they’ll be among you for down-home music and some whiskey—Canadian Club, of course.