Various Artists

Texas-Czech, Bohemian-Moravian Bands: Historic Recordings,1929-1959

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Although Denton, TX, pranksters Brave Combo have their tongues planted firmly in their collective cheek, the postmodern polka collective actually springs from a rich cultural tradition. Central and southern Texas, particularly the Hill Country towns north of San Antonio, were largely settled by German and Czech immigrants in the 1800s. Besides heavily influencing Mexican music (ever wonder how norteño got its polka beats and accordions?), the middle-European sound still holds sway in central Texas. This 1993 compilation, lovingly assembled by Arhoolie head Chris Strachwitz from his own collection of rare 78s, is a chronological look at the heyday of Texas polka music. What's most interesting about these recordings, from the likes of Baca's Czech Orchestra and Joe Patek's Orchestra (two of the biggest names in Texas polka music), is that this is not the staid oompah music the uninitiated might expect; in the dancehalls and town squares of central Texas at this time, polka was dance music to be enjoyed on weekend respites from hardscrabble lives, and there is an undeniable vigor and strength to this music that reflects its origins. Danceable, joyous, and immensely fun to listen to, Texas-Czech, Bohemian-Moravian Bands: Historic Recordings, 1929-1959 is a fascinating musical portrait of an under-represented piece of Texas musical history.

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