Jimmy Sturr

Shake, Rattle and Polka!

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Jimmy Sturr has recorded over 100 albums, and although he has flirted at times with big-band swing, country, Tex-Mex, Cajun, and most recently rock & roll, his work has always been undeniably and firmly about polka, and he has stretched polka's incessant backbeat about as far as it will go. He gets some points for trying, but it's hard to stretch a polka too far without falling into campy parody, and that's the line he walks here on Shake, Rattle and Polka!, his second attempt to fuse polka with early rock & roll. Relying heavily on guest spots from Delbert McClinton, Frankie Ford, Duane Eddy, Willie Nelson, and others, Sturr recognizes that polka and early rock & roll had similar aims in getting people out on the dancefloor, and with a four-to-the-floor beat in common, it would seem like a perfect match, but it isn't, and the reason it isn't has everything to do with attitude. Early rock & roll was about breaking loose, challenging existing formations, and pioneered the idea that you could actually dance by yourself out in front of the bandstand. Polka is all about staying in step, helping your partner through, keeping the group pattern going out there on the floor. Polka and rock & roll take similar roads to vastly different philosophical places. Nothing here really bridges that expanse, although the opener, Delbert McClinton's version of "Kansas City," comes close, and Duane Eddy's presence on the instrumental "Detour" gives it a pretty cool sheen, but it's impossible not to feel that it's all a big joke, a bit like Pat Boone going heavy metal. Actually, this polka-rock & roll fusion resembles the country-reggae hybrid Countryman, which Willie Nelson (who does an interesting Johnny Cash impersonation on this album's "I Walk the Line") released. The two genres simply didn't mix to the betterment of either in Nelson's case, and the same could be said here. That you can turn rock & roll into a polka is proven on Shake, Rattle and Polka!, but the question of whether you should may also have been answered.

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