- Urbana, IL
To listen to April Verch and Cody Walters is to be immersed in tradition. To watch them perform is to be transported. Be it regional Canadian roots, American old-time, 50’s Country, Scandinavian folk music, or something original that sounds as though it’s been around for a century—the one common thread is their love and reverence for the music and traditions that have been passed down to them.
This husband and wife duo are a true partnership of kindred musical spirits, each a world-class musician in their own right. Combining their unique backgrounds from Verch’s native Ottawa Valley and Walters’ heartland roots in Kansas, their music showcases endless creativity and versatility— transitioning effortlessly from traditional Ottawa Valley step dancing and fiddle tunes, to old-time fiddle-banjo duets with tight-knit vocal harmonies, to innovative sandpaper foot percussion, all contrasted against Verch’s sweet soprano voice.
Verch and Walters began playing together in 2007 when Walters joined the April Verch Band as bassist. Initially formed as a pickup band centered around Verch’s own fiddle and dance stylings in 2000, the band grew and blossomed into an established trio of world-class musicians, spanning several musical traditions and backgrounds, yet all united in their mission to share the music they love.
Together they have traveled to four continents, performed in fourteen countries, and played everywhere from tiny pubs and dusty festival workshops all the way to legendary stages such as the Kennedy Center and the Ryman Auditorium. In 2018—fittingly amidst their ever-busy tour schedule—April and Cody were married.
Circumstances, a number of them, not the least of which was the pandemic, led to Verch and Walters exploring the idea of working as a duo. What the two eventually landed on, was a place where all the aforementioned musical styles and sub-genres, could comfortably inhabit the same space.
“When Cody first joined the band I was listening to old time fiddlers at American festivals and loving it, while Cody was learning old time clawhammer banjo on the road, and practicing that in any of his free time. We started playing and working on fiddle and banjo tunes, which really helped my playing in that style. I also received encouragement and mentorship when we were touring in places like Virginia,” added Verch of a scenario, that in hindsight has been wonderfully organic. “Those early days of playing together really helped shape where we’ve ended up years later, blending Canadian old time and American old time and Classic Country music.”
With the release of their debut duo album Passages and Partings (March 2023,) the collection of 16 songs and tunes adds a new tributary to their musical cannon, and one that Verch and Walters feel, is really starting to blossom.
You can hear the joy and sense of satisfaction when Walters reflects on what they have accomplished in creating Passages and Partings.
The multi-instrumentalist and singer feels listeners will hear the focus and the spirit they’ve developed, right from the album opener, an interpretation of “Ain’t Gonna Get No Supper Here Tonight.” It’s a piece which is built on a driving melody that is nothing short of infectious.
“That’s a difficult piece for us to stop playing once we get going, it’s just so much fun. That one nails it for me, and I still hear our source recording from Bob Carlin along with the late Pete Sutherland’s fiddle in my mind. It’s so raw and real,” says Walters.
“Our schedule for recording this album was more spread out than usual because we were recording at home rather than ‘going into the studio.’ There was some late-night recording when traffic had died down or the rain on the roof had finally stopped. That freedom in scheduling effected things in a positive way. We’d get some space from the tunes, listen back, and if necessary be able to take a second shot at some pieces we wanted to approach differently,” recalled Walters.
Verch and Walters aren’t the only duo stirring the pot on Passages and Partings, which also features contributions from a number of their friends and musical peers including Betse & Clarke. Betse Ellis’s fierce fiddle work is heard on “Jawbone,” this particular version inspired by the playing of Missouri’s Gene and Cecil Goforth, while Clarke Wyatt is found on the same track injecting his Norman Blake inspired guitar playing. Ellis’s empathetic playing is also featured on the double fiddle track “Sojourn,” a tune Ellis co-wrote with Verch.
The Juno award-winning Pharis and Jason Romero brought their significant talents to two songs, “Dear Brother” and “Not To Fall.” The foursome created a stunningly beautiful blend of acoustic sounds and voices on these standout tracks.
In the song writing department, “Not To Fall “is one of two pieces Verch co-wrote with highly respected veteran folk singer-songwriter/activist Si Kahn, the other one being “Up In The Ottawa Valley.”
“Those co-writes were composed during a weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina after Si had invited me to write with him,” says Verch. The superior results are apparent upon first listen. That song writing session was eye opening and an artistic highlight for Verch as she got a first-hand glimpse into Kahn’s “process and skill.”
Verch also brought two more songs to the project that she co-wrote with the critically acclaimed American songwriter (and previous bandmate) Jon Weisberger. One being the title track “Passages and Partings,” the other being “Dear Brother.”
For Verch & Walters, taking their music to the stage is another process altogether and the trajectory of live performance is certainly fulfilling for both the duo and their audiences.
“We’re more comfortable with this setting with each passing show and we debrief about the live shows all the time. We’re really finding our comfort zone,” Walters feels, before Verch adds, “you can practice as much as you like, but it’s got to work in front of people, and you don’t know that until you’re performing live and feeling those reactions. It’s such a beautiful experience.”
The virtuoso fiddle player also feels that after having been a bandleader for so many years, it’s really refreshing to be in a duo, “where it’s just April Verch and Cody Walters.”
“It’s a sweet way of being ourselves. We’ve played together for so long, and even though the music is still high energy, I feel like our performances are now a bit more laid back and mature.”
Audience members and music journalists have remarked at their sincerity in sharing stories between tunes. Verch’s delicate voice, energetic footwork, sand paper foot percussion and stunning playing (sometimes combined all at once!) are jaw-dropping. Walters’ melodic banjo stylings, solid rhythm guitar accompaniment and tasteful vocal harmonies are at once understated and brilliant, dueting with Verch’s skills in glorious harmony.
Even now, after more than two decades leading her own band and with 15 albums in her name (two of which were nominated for JUNO Awards), there is nothing that fulfills Verch more than sharing her music with the world. “It’s like the reward for everything else.”
Together, Verch and Walters are exemplary tradition-bearing performers: never forgetting the roots of the music, that connection to the people in the audience or on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song.
“It’s about joining together to celebrate everyday life, through music. We’re all in this together.” And so together they press onward: diving deep into musical tradition, bringing people together and forging connections, and sharing their insight and genuine love for the music they play so well.
Americana/Roots | World Music/Traditional | Country
Fiddler, step dancer & singer April Verch brings her fresh and feisty approach on North American traditions to Iron Post for CU Folk & Roots on August 3
Fiddler, singer, and stepdancer April Verch has never been content to stand still. One of the most esteemed fiddlers of her generation, Verch has been immersed in a deeply explorative musical journey since the age of three, with new chapters unfolding each step of the way. On February 17, 2017, Verch released The April Verch Anthology (Slab Town Records), an 18-track collection celebrating her life’s work.
The April Verch Anthology offers an enchanting mix of regional Canadian, American old-time, bluegrass, country and Americana tracks, including songs dear to April as well as a healthy dose of fan favorites. In addition to featuring tracks spanning Verch’s 1998-2015 recordings, the collection includes two newly recorded, never-before-released tracks. While Verch’s silver-voiced singing, virtuosic stepdancing and fiddling remain front and center, the record also features the talents of legendary bluegrass greats Mac Wiseman and Bobby Hicks, Newgrass pioneer Sam Bush, old-time master Dirk Powell, and Travis Book of Infamous Stringdusters, among others.
The April Verch Anthology is not only a testament to Verch’s musical versatility, but also illustrates her deep understanding of traditional music and songcraft from the broad North American tradition. There are exuberant fiddle reels, contemplative Canadiana originals, old-time tunes rife with clawhammer banjo, and the list goes on. The result is a collection that feels deeply personal, exploratory, and celebratory, much like Verch’s career itself.
Verch says, “As I reflected on the releases that had come before, I realized that those albums and tracks represented snapshots of my life, past and present, and that together they make a mosaic of glimpses into the full picture of who I am. That’s when I decided that an anthology would be the perfect way to celebrate it all.”
Verch began her full-time touring career in 2000, and has since performed at elite festivals and performing arts centers worldwide. One might suspect a performer with as many talents as Verch would pause to take a breath, or need to somewhat compartmentalize her skills during a live performance. But on stage, Verch is almost superhuman, flawlessly intertwining and overlapping different performative elements. She stepdances while fiddling. She sings while stepdancing. Sometimes she sings, steps and fiddles all at once, with apparent ease and precision. Verch is - as they say - a triple threat in performance, her live show a beautiful companion to her music: versatile, robust, and masterfully executed.
With eleven albums and years of touring under her belt, Verch has moved from upstart prodigy to mature and reflective songwriter, interpreter, and storyteller. The April Verch Anthology is a stunning collection of this lifetime of songs and experiences. The story is in these tracks, and together they bring joy, enlightenment, and proof of just how relevant an old tune can be.
|Ticket URL:||Click here|
|Ticket Price(s):||$15 (at the door)|
|Venue Link:||Click here|
|Venue City, State:||Urbana, IL|
|Venue St. Address:||120 South Race Street|
|Venue:||The Iron Post (presented by CU Folk and Roots)|
|Concert Start Time:||8:00 PM|