A great way to get an insight into a certain area of the country is by looking at the colloquial expressions or turns of phrase that are used. Consider “for a piece", meaning “a great distance", the word “kittle” instead of “kettle” or “worshing” instead of “washing". Then there’s “I hit the rhubarb", which you’ll hear on the new album, Passages And Partings, by April Verch, originally from the Ottawa Valley, and Cody Walters, originally from Kansas.
“My grandpa used to say, ‘For every mile of road, there’s two miles of ditch, so don’t hit the rhubarb'", said April. “The song is a little bit about that and also about the culture of dance halls. My parents always told us growing up about how they dated. Every Friday and Saturday night they’d go to the local dance hall. As I got older, the stories got more interesting, and they’d tell us what happened in the parking lot and between the dances. So there’s a little bit of that in there as well.”
The husband and wife duo have been playing together since 2007 when Cody joined April’s band as a bassist. The new album came out of touring together as just a duo and audiences requesting a recording that reflected their live sound, which features April’s fiddle and Cody’s guitar and clawhammer banjo.
“I started The April Verch Band in 2000, and that’s been my main touring band,” she said. “But since the pandemic started, Cody and I have been touring as a duo, and we plan on doing more of it. So it’s nice to have a snapshot of where things are in your career. We wanted to do stuff that sounded good with our instrumentation, so there’s fiddle and banjo duets, there’s some old-time and classic country sounding songs. It’s what we’ve been playing and loving lately.”
In putting the album together April and Cody chose some non-original songs and tunes besides the ones April wrote on her own and with Si Kahn and Jon Weisberger.
“Jon and I are good friends,” said April. “Jon used to play bass in my band before I hired Cody, so we’ve known each other a long time. Writing together is easy because we don’t have to worry about hurting each other’s feelings.”
One of the two songs on the new album April wrote with Si Kahn is 'Up In The Ottawa Valley', which references “hitting the rhubarb”.
“Si is such a generous soul, and he lives in North Carolina, as I do, so we wrote a bunch of songs in a weekend. We haven’t even finished them all.”
Besides featuring April and Cody as a duo, Passages And Partings benefits from two other duos, one Canadian and one American.
“We thought it would be neat to have a couple of duos as special guests,” she explained. “We’re friends with, and admirers of, Pharis and Jason Romero, and with Betse Ellis and Clarke Wyatt. It seemed like a natural fit and we were delighted when they accepted to join us.”
As April stated earlier, both she and Cody are fans of old-time music. But how well does old-time music from Canada blend with American old-time music?
“It seems to happen pretty naturally,” according to April. “We both love traditional music from a few different areas. We’ve experimented with styles throughout our career, so we just don’t work too hard at it. It’s important to let the music speak for itself, so we try not to overthink it and get in the way.”
For more on April Verch and Cody Walters, and Passage and Partings, go to aprilverch.com.