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Music Review: April Verch – Steal The Blue

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It’s hard not to be impressed by a sixteen-year old with seven CD’s on her resume. Experience adds up, though, and Steal The Blue, the seventh(!) outing by April Verch, is the work of a surprisingly mature and assured artist. And it’s very impressive indeed.

Verch first made her mark as a fiddling phenomenon in her native Canada, and her first few recordings were primarily collections of old-time jigs and reels. Beginning with 2006’s Take Me Back, though, she’s updated her sound – if updated is the right word in a genre steeped in tradition – with contemporary compositions as well as adding angelic vocals to her precocious skills as an instrumentalist.

True, Verch still has a youthful purity about her voice, a delicate fragility that implies innocence, not experience. But that just gives tunes like “Slip Away,” a song about the passing of time that reveals a wisdom seemingly beyond April’s tender years, a gem-like quality, like a delicate rose gently cushioned by a carefully constructed bed of acoustic instrumentation.

Verch’s choice of material displays a remarkable maturity as well. Most are introspective, thoughtful compositions, many steeped in wispy melancholy. “Some People” is a poignant meditation on selfless devotion, while “The Last Greyhound” explores the unbreakable ties with home that keep us grounded. The lure of home is strong indeed, with tunes like “Long Way Home” and “The Lonely Road Back Home” as touching as their titles suggest.

Instrumentals include the relatively progressive “My Friend Craig” and “Fork Creek River,” and the more traditional “Reels Tadoussac et Lindbergh,” all fine showcases for Verch’s considerable prowess on the fiddle. Her only contribution, the utterly gorgeous “Independence Va,” is a lovely piece that could well act as an overture for the project, achingly bittersweet and seemingly infused with the history of America itself – not bad for a kid from Canada!

Comparisons to a young Alison Krauss are inevitable, and while there are similarities, Verch is rooted in a different tradition, with French Canadian and Irish roots prominent in the percussion employed on the instrumentals, and seems to have a firm grasp on a finely focused musical vision. Accompaniment is uniformly excellent, and sound is warm and well balanced. Even the packaging on this independent release is exemplary, with craft and attention to detail evident in every detail.

Steal The Blue is an absolutely remarkable outing, a warm and wonderful collection from a genuinely gifted artist. Verch may be young, but her music is infused with a grace and dignity most strive a lifetime to achieve. Highly recommended!

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