FolkWorld #76 11/2021
© April Verch Music

Across the Western Ocean

On This Christmas Day

On This Christmas Day

Joe Newberry & April Verch "On This Christmas Day", 2021

Joe Newberry: Banjo, guitar, lead & harmony vocals

April Verch: Fiddle, lead & harmony vocals

Growing up, Joe Newberry and April Verch absorbed traditions of home and hearth - in his Missouri Ozarks and her Ottawa Valley of Canada. The holidays have always been a special time of year for both, with family and friends, festive decorations, gifts under the tree, and always, music. The duo’s new release, “On This Christmas Day,” on Slab Town Records, underscores that warmth, and will make a fine addition to any stocking, gathering, or celebration.

The holiday album, which will be available for pre-orders on November 3, 2021 and released digitally on December 3, 2021 was inspired by Newberry & Verch’s annual “Holiday Cheer” tour. Each year, the duo heads out in a modern day sleigh (with four-wheel drive) to perform for delighted audiences. Original songs join timeless hymns. Stories warm the heart and give a twinkle to the eye. Lively fiddle and banjo numbers inspire dance steps to illustrate happy times when people made their own fun at the holidays, and all year long.

Verch Newberry

Artist Video Joe Newberry @ FROG

“From our very first ‘Holiday Cheer’ tour in 2016, Joe and I heard this question from audience members…. ‘Where is the recording?’,” Verch said. “We had a week between online shows and camps this summer, and we got together to record at Joe’s house in Raleigh, N.C.” The project was recorded by Verch, produced by the duo, and mixed and mastered by Chris Rosser at Hollow Reed Studio, in Asheville, N.C.

Newberry said that, like many things over the past couple of years, this project involved some thinking outside the box to be born. “April and I made the decision, for right now, to not create a physical CD, but instead worked with Memphis artist Martha Kelly ( to create a beautiful, frameable winter scene, with information about the project and a download code on the back. April continues, “We will even have frames available for sale, so our fans can have a framed piece of art for the wall, or to give as a present.”

April Verch

Artist Video April Verch


Verch, best known for two decades of international touring with The April Verch Band, and Newberry, known for his work with mandolin icon Mike Compton, as well as The Transatlantic Sessions and A Prairie Home Companion, have enjoyed their collaboration, and say that it holds a special place in their hearts. They are looking forward to developing it alongside their other projects, which will continue.

Newberry grew up in a family full of singers and dancers. He took up the guitar and banjo as a teenager and learned fiddle tunes from great Missouri fiddlers. April Verch grew up listening to her Dad’s country band play for dances in the Ottawa Valley. She started step dancing at age three and fiddling at age six. Both Newberry and Verch became masters of their traditions and tour the world with their respective bands and projects. Yet they never forget the roots of their music, that connection to the people in the audience, on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song. For these veteran performers who come from distinct traditions and parts of the world, their collaboration is fueled by their kindred passion for bringing people together to celebrate traditional music. Blues and ballads stem into Canadian regional styles and originals. Their voices blend in harmony, their tasteful instrumentals prove that these masters have nothing left to prove, and then their feet kick up the dust in perfect rhythm…and together, they make you remember why this music existed in the first place.

Joe Newberry is a Missouri native and North Carolina transplant who has played music most of his life. A noted teacher of traditional music and song, he was for many years the coordinator of Old-Time Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, W.V. He won the songwriting prize for Gospel Recorded Performance at the 2012 IBMA Awards for his song Singing As We Rise, and was co-writer, with Eric Gibson, of the 2013 IBMA Song of the Year for They Called It Music. Newberry came to North Carolina as a young man and quickly became an anchor of the incredible music scene in the state. Still going strong almost 40 years later, he writes songs that consistently show up on Bluegrass charts, does solo and studio work, and plays and teaches at festivals and workshops in North America and abroad.

Fiddler, singer, and stepdancer April Verch knows how relevant an old tune can be. She grew up surrounded by living, breathing roots music and decided early she wanted to be a professional musician. She took that leap, and has been quietly leaping into new, nuanced places her entire career. Moving from exuberant stepdancer to fiddle wunderkind and silver-voiced singer. Verch keeps the community-fired celebratory side of her music at the forefront, honing a keen awareness of how to engage contemporary listeners. With countless awards, 14 albums and 21 years of touring under her belt, Verch has moved from upstart prodigy to mature and reflective songwriter, interpreter, and storyteller. She has performed around the world, including festival, theatre and performing arts centre appearances in Canada, USA, China, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany, Austria, France, Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates. Passionate about giving back, she makes master classes, workshops and camps a regular part of her touring activity. Verch was one of 6 fiddlers who represented the Canadian fiddle tradition to the world at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, as part of a segment called "Fiddle Nation."

Photo Credits: (1ff) Joe Newberry / April Verch (unknown/website).

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