Two recordings which were released in 2017 have been getting a lot of play at home and in the car lately: Going Home by April Verch and Joe Newberry and Carp Fishing in Missouri by Cathy Barton and Dave Para.
April Verch is a super-fine fiddler and step dancer who came out of the Ottawa Valley fiddle tradition a number of years ago. These days her repertoire has expanded to include other fiddle and song traditions as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen 3 of her shows over the years. She always gives a fabulous performance. I was delighted to discover that April Verch has been performing of late with another of my favourites, Joe Newberry.
You might be familiar with Joe Newberry from frequent appearances on Prairie Home Companion. He also has some great recordings available. His Two Hands recording is excellent and as well I recommend the live recording he did with mandolin picker Mike Compton simply called Mike Compton & Joe Newberry Live. I also know Joe as a teacher and I’ve had the opportunity to take some of his classes and jam with him at Midwest Banjo Camp. What a great experience! Joe is a really good teacher and also a great person to be around.
April Verch and Joe Newberry have quite a chemistry playing together and it comes across wonderfully well on Going Home. The album features a selection of songs and tunes which for the most part are different than you would hear either of them play on their own or with others. Both performers sing, April Verch plays loads of fiddle and Joe Newberry plays both guitar and banjo.
The highlight of Going Home for me is one of Joe Newberry’s songs, Jericho. Here they are performing the song live on Good Hope Island…
Another highlight for me is the instrumental medley, Back up and Push/ Carleton County Breakdown/John Brown’s Dream. I love these choices together. Back up and Push has been well recorded, mostly by Bluegrass bands. I’m betting that Carleton County refers to the historic Carleton County in the Ottawa Ontario area, since April Verch was known first as an Ottawa Valley fiddler. When I hear John Brown’s Dream, I think of North Carolina and more specifically Surry County, home of the Round Peak style of old time music. When the medley kicks into John Brown’s Dream, we hear April Verch’s dancing against Joe Newberry’s banjo. Perfect. John Brown’s Dream, the devil is dead.
The final tune on Going Home is Arcand-Saw Traveler/Arkansas Traveler. The first part is a nod to the great Métis fiddler from Saskatchewan John Arcand. The second part is the Arkansas Traveler I know and more like the one I like to play on the banjo.
Today I’m writing about two duos but I should mention that Joe Newberry and Cathy Barton and Dave Para happen to have known one another going back a very long way. I should also mention that I’ve had a chance to take a number of classes with Cathy Barton and jam with her and Dave Para at Midwest Banjo Camp. I’ve attended that camp 3 times and along the way I’ve learned quite a number of tunes from Cathy’s enormous repertoire.
The title Carp Fishing in Missouri refers to a jam at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas, known as the Carp Camp. This recording features a number of musicians Cathy and Dave have played with at that jam, as well as several tunes they learned there. There is some singing on this album, but it is dominated by instrumentals. I know Cathy as a clawhammer player but she is also well-known for her hammered dulcimer playing and it is featured on quite a few of the tracks on the album.
There is a great version of the John Hartford song, Skipping on the Mississippi Dew on Carp Fishing in Missouri. I’ve heard Cathy and Dave perform this one live, at the 2014 Midwest Banjo Camp faculty concert. Here’s a live performance they did to promote the new album on the Paul Pepper radio show – featuring Dave Para on Jew’s harp.
The banjo Cathy is playing on this video is a vintage Ode by the way – it may look like it’s been through the wars but it has come out victorious. It’s a great instrument and Cathy Barton makes it sing so well. I’ve only played open-back banjos. One day I’d like to try playing a beast like that Ode.
Here’s another from their new recording, also performed on the Paul Pepper Show. It’s Oh My Little Darlin with Lady on the Green.
I learned Lady on the Green from Cathy in June at banjo camp. There’s another tune on the album I also learned from Cathy and Dave – a French Canadian tune called Le Grande Chaine.
I bought the Newberry/Verch music as a download on iTunes. I bought my copy of Carp Fishing in Missouri at the Midwest Banjo Camp store. You can order a copy from their website. Both recordings highly recommended.