April Verch,
From Where I Stand
(Rounder, 2003)

Beneath the breast of this talented Ontario fiddler beats the heart of a country music star.

April Verch dazzled me with two earlier CDs, Fiddelicious and Verchuosity. Innovative and infectiously cheerful, her performance set a very high standard for this young fiddler to live up to. Now more mature (in her mid-20s when this album was recorded), April has broadened her playing field considerably. Still steeped in Celtic-Canadian traditions, she has added to the field with her own compositions and has continued her passionate exploration of other musical genres.

For instance, the Latin-inflected "Spanish for Crown," co-written by April, features a bit of atypical saxophone. "Suite de Loudeac" is a traditional French piece that sits comfortably between a Scottish tune, "Bonnie Lass o' the Mornin'," and two Irish tunes, "Howling at the Moon" and "Sunset over Scariff." "Faniuck's Fancy," also co-written by April, smacks of the Ukraine.

On a more romantic note, "August 19" is a piece written by April as her own wedding march; arranged by Darol Anger, this lovely tune is reinvented for fiddle, guitar, viola and cello. The traditional "Dixie Hoedown" is a pure bluegrass frolic that benefits immensely from the talents of all five musicians: April on fiddle, Bruce Molsky on clawhammer banjo, Kenneth Saulnier on mandolin, Mark Simos on guitar and Stuart Kenney on bass. "Partie de Quadrille des Verret" is a set of lively Quebecois dance tunes.

The most surprising addition to From Where I Stand, however, is a selection of vocal pieces that spotlight April's old-time/Appalachian spirit. April's voice is clear and sweet, a delicate soprano that almost makes me wish I liked country music. I really don't, though, so her vocal tracks aren't a big selling point for me. Still, I'm honest enough to recognize the talent on display on "Light in the Window," "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" and the traditional gospel song "I Will Arise." I particularly enjoy the touching story-song "Jean," while April's "A Riverboat's Gone" pays tribute to the late performer/songwriter John Hartford.

There's no question, April Verch is still a young, shining star among Canadian fiddlers, and I've no doubt her star will continue to rise. Whether she conquers Nashville as well remains to be seen, but I wouldn't bet against anything April puts her mind to. She has talent to spare, a refreshingly cheery outlook and the drive to get her wherever she's going.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 27 August 2005

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