When the Juno announcements came out this week, Courtenay-based Doug Cox was thrilled to see a familiar name.
Fiddler and stepdancer April Verch and her record Once A Day were nominated in the category for best traditional roots album of the year, alongside other artists like Natalie McMaster and the Small Glories.
Cox knows the Verch record well; he produced it.
“It’s a big deal to get nominated for one of these things,” he told the Comox Valley Record.
Once before, one of Cox’s records, Make a Better World, which he produced and played on with his band Slide to Freedom, was nominated for a Juno in the world music category. Cox is, of course, known as the artistic director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest.
The Verch project started when she contacted Cox to ask him to produce the record. This brought him to Nashville to work with some of the top session players from the days of classic country, such as steel guitarist Al Perkins (Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris), guitarist Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard) and fiddler Kenny Sears (Mel Tillis, Grand Ole Opry).
“We ended with kind of a who’s who of the old school country music world,” he said. “It was really exciting getting to work with all those people…. It was a blast. Some of them were old friends, and some of them were new acquaintances. They were all really excited too because they don’t get to make records like this very often anymore. This was a real old-school Nashville project.”
The lineup was all-too appropriate because Verch wanted to make a record that was a testament to the classic country from the 1950s and ’60s. The song selection includes Once A Day, a hit single for Connie Smith; Loretta Lynn’s You Ain’t Woman Enough; and Webb Pierce’s You’re Not Mine Anymore.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with Doug, whether that be as fellow musician and bandmate, or him as artistic director and me as hired artist and he absolutely brings the same great qualities and integrity to the role of producer as any other role he takes on – as I knew he would. There is no ego involved with Doug. With him, it’s about the music first and foremost, and about staying true to the vision for the album,” Verch told the Record. “With Doug as producer, I got to witness his technical knowledge in a way I hadn’t before, and of course benefited from his amazing connections and relationships to musicians and engineers.”
As far as Cox’s role, he’s produced a record in Nashville once before – one of his own – but only did the mixing there, after recording in Memphis. Working with Verch on Once A Day really marked the first time he got to see a whole project through in the country music capital.
“I was involved in picking the songs with her, picking all the musicians, running the sessions, charting out all the songs, being involved in the mixes,” he said.
They recorded it in November 2018, with the musicians usually running through the songs one or two times before laying down the tracks. The album came out in April 2019 on Slab Town Records.
Cox says he is not sure he will be able to attend the Junos in Saskatoon this March because he is busy with several other projects right now.
“I might go…. It’s a fun thing to go to,” he said. “It’s way more important that April’s there.”