Several small towns in Texas -- New Waverly, Chappel Hill and Bremond, to name a few -- were settled by Poles that immigrated to the Lone Star State in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As a result, these communities have fostered a style of music that connects them over time and space to the villages of Poland. This down-home style utilizes the instruments that were readily available on the rural American landscape at the time -- violin, bass, guitar and accordion â€“ but has largely avoided the brass sound that became popular among American Poles in more northern urban areas. To this day, the western swing-tinged polkas and obereks performed by Texas Poles still can be heard at weddings, family reunions and other community events.
A fourth generation musician of Polish ancestry, Brian Marshall (nee Marszalek) started playing music at the age of 7 and he likely learned his first Polish tune at 8. Brianâ€™s grandfather was a fiddler, from Bremond, Texas â€“ the single largest Polish settlement in the state until the Second World Warâ€”and from him Brian learned a true affection for the old music. As a teenager, Brian played in a country band that would flip to its Polish set list for the right community events. By his late 20s Brian realized an entire generation of Texas Polish musicians were disappearing and their repertoires with them. In response, he started recording himself and many of the older players to ensure that the music was not lost. His passion for this effort has resulted in two acclaimed and currently available recording projects, the self-produced "Polish Roots" and "Texas Kapela", on Arhoolie Records.
A polka with German origins but very popular amongst Texas Poles
2. Flat Lake Special
A popular waltz from Bremond, from the repertoire of fiddler Steve Okonski.
3. Hyman Special
An oberek learned from fiddler William Hyman (Hajman) of New Wavery, TX. Collected on a road trip with my friend Frank Motley. With the complete absence of minor key tunes in Texas, we were astonished to hear William play this tune with a minor section. Or at the age of 83 was he just playing flat? Your guess is as good as ours.
The great Daniel Cendalski played this one for me on his front porch in Brenham, TX.
A Polish drinking song sung by both Chappel Hill and Bremond Poles.
6. White Chimney
This is Bremondâ€™s â€œBride Danceâ€ song performed at weddings.
7. Blue Skirt Waltz
A beautiful and well loved Czech waltz. Probably still the most requested waltz at dances in Texas.
8. Where is my Gray Horse
These lyrics were sung to me by Ike Modzrejewski a couple of months prior to his death. A favorite â€œfoot stomperâ€ in Chappel Hill and Brenham TX.
9. No Reason to Go Home
A very popular Bremond Waltz taught to me by Joe Bartula. He actually had the words written down as sung by his mother Aniela Bartula.
10. Wedding Marches
As DJâ€™s become increasingly popular I thought it time to put the Marches on CD so that Texas Poles would have appropriate music for the â€œGrand Marchâ€ as opposed to some hokey northern Polka version of â€œRoll out the Barrelâ€ that the DJ picked up at Wal Mart.
11. Ikeâ€™s polka
Ike Modzrejewski loved to sing this one!
12. Village Oberek
Fiddler Joe Kujawa recorded this tune some years ago as he remembered it being played by Steve Okonski. I recently dug up some old recordings of Steve from the late 40â€™s that had the complete version and I like it. A LOT!
Check out the artist's website:
1. Grasshopper Polka
2. Flat Lake Special
3. Where is My Grey Horse? (Gdzie ty moja Siwi Konie)
4. Ike's Polka (Co wy tutej Robita)
5. Wiesniak (Village) Oberek
6. Blue Skirt Waltz
7. Cendalski Special
8. Texas Polish Wedding March Medley
9. White Chimney (Bialy Komin)
10. No Reason to Go Home (Do domu nie mam poco isc)
11. Hyman Special
12. Pije Kuba (Drunk Jake) Polka