Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra,
Let's Polka 'Round
(Rounder, 2003)

Sometimes an album just doesn't seem to need a review. Jimmy Sturr's Let's Polka 'Round states everything essential in the title. It's a polka album. It encourages listeners to join in and, well, polka 'round. Extra description seems superfluous.

But for those not lured in by the bare promise of a polka album, it's worth noting that Sturr and his orchestra deliver their tunes with a casual good cheer well suited to an actual dance floor. There are no grand flourishes or self-absorbed musical tricks that might encourage a listener to pause and focus on the band. This is swinging music with an oom-pah beat, made to get people up and out on the floor. Sturr and his group are among the most accomplished in their genre, and it shows with every track they perform. "Polka on the Banjo" plays a bit with untraditional instruments, and "Lucky Seven" heads back to Poland for a refresher in the roots of the form. But new or old, every track and tune is incontrovertible polka, performed by a band so synchronized as to seem a trick of the recording studio. Instead, the cheerful unity of the group comes from dozens of albums and uncounted hours of practice together.

There are a few surprises on Let's Polka 'Round. People who associate polka strictly with Oktoberfest and lederhosen will be surprised to hear the rolling notes "Night Train to Memphis" and the fat bragging horns of "I'm Walkin" bounce their way across the floor. "Yakety Sax" is given a great presentation, allowed all the energy and good cheer it deserves. A few scattered waltzes provide a bit of breathing room for those who try to take this album on in one go.

Let's Polka Round isn't about to change anyone's feelings about polka. It doesn't break the rules of the genre or try to appeal to fans outside its influence. It just presents a good collection of polkas, played for the enjoyment of the musicians and the listeners, and clears the air for a dance.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 20 November 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.