JOE NEWBERRY & APRIL VERCH - Eyemouth Hippodrome - 1 February 2020
A night of foul weather, both political and meteorological… The Brexit fiasco had been commemorated just a few hours before by a solemn vigil outside the Scottish Parliament, and here in Eyemouth the rain slatted down, driving even the exhibitionist seals in the harbour to forsake their tourist centred scrounging and head for deeper waters. What was previously the Seaman's Mission is now an intimate, harbour-side theatre - the Eyemouth Hippodrome - which has one of the most adventurous yet ‘finger on the pulse’ booking policies in Scotland. Tonight, it provided a safe haven from the Stygian gloom outside and beckoned as a cosy beacon of light and cheerfulness, with a capacity audience for Joe and April.
The duo features music from their respective parts of the world. April sings, plays fiddle and step dances, drawing inspiration from her native Ottawa Valley, whilst Joe features ballads from the Ozarks and Appalachians. Both sing solo and in harmony, Joe plays guitar and banjo and both write original tunes - Joe sometimes in partnership with Si Kahn - and they revealed a stage manner both unforced and wryly funny. What’s not to like?
Of Joe's solo songs I loved a paean to his childhood, when school kids would get the equivalent of our ‘tattie-picking’ holidays to harvest the cotton crop, which he's immortalised in My Dear Childhood Days, a memory of great expressed tenderness. April, I could write reams about. A champion Canadian fiddler from a land not short of virtuoso players, she wears her accomplishments lightly. She excelled on self-written tunes like New Waltz, sang sweetly on Will You Wait For Me? and several times in the evening blazed across the stage fiddling to ferociously fast and complex step dances, each time bringing spontaneous outbursts of applause.
A superb duo, I would imagine at the top of their game. I bought their current CD, Going Home, a rare occurrence for me (the last time I bought a CD was Paul Simon's Stranger To Stranger in 2016). That act alone probably tells you all you need to know - they deserve a big following in this country.