North American roots musician April Verch, shown right, performs throughout the San Juan Islands, bringing Ottawa Valley fiddle and stepdancing to the Northwest. She will be performing at Lopez Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m, Sept. 17.
Fiddler, singer and stepdancer Verch knows how relevant an old tune can be. She grew up surrounded by living, breathing roots music – her father’s country band rehearsing in the “Newpart,” the beloved Verch family room; the lively music at church and at community dances; the tunes she rocked out to win fiddle competitions – and decided early she wanted to be a professional musician.
She took that leap, and has been quietly leaping into new, nuanced places for more than two decades. Moving from exuberant stepdancer to fiddle wunderkind and silver-voiced singer, Verch may still spend many a fond hour rehearsing in the Newpart, when at home and not on tour, but like tradition itself, she has never been content to stand still. “When you really know and love this music,” Verch reflects, “you want to go deeper, to bring out new dimensions, without straying too much into novelty.”
Now on her milestone 10th album, “The Newpart” (release: April 7), with producer Casey Driessen, Verch digs deep into songs and tunes from the era before the often-mined mid-century heyday of bluegrass and folk. Harkening back to vaudeville and beyond, Verch and her fellow trio members pare down their arrangements, highlighting the simple pleasures of upright bass, guitar, clawhammer banjo, mandolin, voices, fiddle and stepping in intimate conversation. At the heart lie Verch’s delicate voice, energetic footwork and stunning playing, a trifecta of talents she brings together simultaneously for the first time on stage and on “The Newpart.” It all works to insist that, “these songs don’t need to be revived,” Verch exclaims. “They are timeless. They are still very much alive and relevant.”