Rounder CD 6029
For Music City Texas
The contemporary Texas polka scene has been woefully under recorded and to the point, under distributed outside it’s own community for too long. The only way I’ve found to find recorded evidence of these bands is to track them down between sets and a dance and buy a tape off the bandstand. That’s where I found the Vrazels’ Songs From The Heart” cassette (From whence their Angel Polka is included in this collection) and Buckholtz TX is a long way to go just to buy a tape. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see this CD. warts (and sizable ones at that) and all.
There are eight groups featured here, representing a fairly good cross section of what you’d expect to find at your local SPJST Hall. Our readers should by now be acquainted with the mighty Vrazels and Lee Roy “The Fayetteville Flash” Matocha from their appearances at the Texas Folklife “Accordion Kings” shows, but they get only one track apiece. Much of the CD leans on the brass tradition with the larger, tuba-driven bands like the Jodie Mikula Orchestra of Ennis, Harry Czarnek & his Texas Dutchman from Houston and the Czech Harvesters (the best of this lot.) The liner notes refer to the hammer dulcimer tradition of the Baca dynasty of bands from Fayetteville, but strangely none of which are included. The great Joe Patek singular contribution if from later in his life, not his strongest work, and thereby not a great introduction to a seminal artist.
Brave Combo bassist/tuba player/vocalist Bubba Hernandez is credited with the concept and selection of tunes. He was singing Czech polkas every weekend long before most of us knew what a kolache was. However, the ball gets dropped in the packaging department. The liner notes, written by a band director from Mouton High, give a nice thumbnail sketch of the back round of the Czech-Bohemian/Moravian musical tradition in Texas, but nothing that hasn’t already been covered in Arhoolie’s historical collection of the same material last year. Additionally, there is no recording or contact information offered at all. The Texas Polka News is credited with providing all the photos of the bands, however their address is omitted. They even manage to misspell “Anton” Vrazel.
As a definitive overview of the Tex-Czech Polka scene, which I’m sure it was intended to be, then it’s a major disappointment. (Look for “Texas Bohemia” on the German Trikont label for that.) But’s it’s the only one on the block presently, and as I heard some one once say “if you like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you’d like.”