03/23/2017 News & Observer, Album review , 'Bluegrass By Way of Raleigh, Canada'

Music, it’s often said, is a universal language transcending cultural borders in ways that promote peace, love and understanding.

Joe Newberry, a Raleigh resident by way of Missouri, and April Verch, a native of Ottawa Valley, Canada, bridge their respective traditions with original and traditional fiddle, guitar, and banjo tunes, songs, and Verch’s step-dance percussion.

The duo’s debut CD, “Going Home,” is a vibrant showcase of texture and taste. Fiddle-banjo duets (“Arcand-Saw Traveler/Arkansas Traveler”) are melodic, snappy and bold. Newberry’s songwriting is personal and reflective. On “I’m Going Home,” he sings, “This hard old world beat me down/Till I was black and blue,” with Verch’s lilting soprano soaring above Newberry’s gentle reverie.

Verch contributes her compositions, “Waiting for Joe” and “New Waltz,” and sings pleadingly on the gorgeous spring-time waltz, “Roses Are Blooming.”

The musical interplay on the medley, “Back Up and Push/Carleton County Breakdown/John Brown’s Dream,” with Verch step-dancing through Newberry’s clawhammer banjo solo, testifies to the joy these two artists derive from performing together. Try to remain seated as they shout the Wade Mainer gospel classic, “I Can’t Sit Down.”

From different countries and musical backgrounds, “Going Home” joins the talents of Newberry and Verch in a seamless tapestry of music as unifier.