It’s always a treat to attend an April Verch show. First off, the fiddling is outstanding. Secondly, the step dancing is fun to watch. And finally, she’s found a sweet spot between writing clever original tunes and diving into the vast catalog of traditional folk music.
Here’s the CMT Edge premiere of her brand new video for “Belle Election.” Her upcoming album, The Newpart, arrives April 7. Check out a Q&A with the upbeat musician below the player.
CMT Edge: How did you become aware of the song “Belle Election”?
Verch: We did a lot of listening and research when we first started putting this album together. Some of that listening was to playlists I had made for myself over the last few years which include things that I hear and really grab me. I’m usually in a rush (aren’t we all?!) and so when something like that comes on I’ll add it to a playlist called “tunes to learn” or “consider for next record.” I have bunches of those playlists that I reference later on when I’m looking for something special.
In one of those genius playlists to myself, I came across “Belle Election.” It was a version that was given to me, an archive or field recording from a friend, and it was a recording of John Patterson from Carroll County, Virginia. I know there are other versions of this tune from other fiddlers, including “Belle of Lexington” (associated with Emmett Lundy), “Belle Lexington” and “Bells of Election.” It’s thought that these tunes were derived from the melody of a still-popular Irish tune called “Kitty’s Wedding.” In any case, I think it was the spirit with which John Patterson played this tune that really drew me into it.
I like the step dancing in the video, and in your concerts as well. What was it about this song that made you want to dance, so to speak?
Thanks! There are certain tunes that really make me feel like dancing and it’s hard to pinpoint what that is sometimes. But it’s a good sign! Fiddle music was meant for dancing and if it moves me in that way, then I know we’re doing it “right,” so to speak. I think in this case it had a lot to do with how we arranged the tune: the tempo we picked, the passing around of the melody and certain little lines here and there. I also felt compelled to mimic the melody a little bit with my feet, to treat them like another instrument.
You drew upon a part of your childhood to come up with the album title for this record. Why did The Newpart seem like the right fit?
The Newpart felt like the right fit in a number of ways. First of all, this is my tenth release, so it’s a natural time for me to reflect and take stock. The “newpart” is the nickname for what I think most people would call “the family room” in my family home, where I grew up. It was built the year I was born but it’s still called “the newpart” and always will be (and the shag carpet will always be there too, I hope!). It’s where all of the special things in my life happened and continue to happen when I’m home; jam sessions, celebrations, family gatherings, comfort….
It’s hard to explain, but it really represents, in my heart and mind, the things that are truly important to me; family, tradition, music. … It ties together the new and the old, it nurtures tradition though our family has grown and changed. All of that, plus the fact that I’ve practiced more hours than I can count and written many, many tunes in the newpart, made me think it deserved a little recognition at this stage in my life and career!