CD Review: Chardon Polka Band “Polka Round the Christmas Tree”

Posted: December 8, 2015 in Music

Every year, the music industry puts out many new releases for the Christmas season. While there are plenty of things to choose from, what you should be doing is adding to your music with something different than what already makes up the collection. That means going for the more unusual releases instead of the same old thing. For this year’s addition to your Christmas music collection, I suggest Polka Round the Christmas Tree, the new release from The Chardon Polka Band.

Founded in 2003, the band started out as a group of high school students in Chardon, Ohio who were looking to form a polka band. That initial band was known as the Chardon High School Polka Band. A dozen years later, that band has evolved into the polka powerhouse it is today. The Chardon Polka Band is currently made up of founding member, accordion player and vocalist Jake Kouwe; banjo player, guitarist and vocalist Mike Franklin; saxophone player, flutist and vocalist Emily Kouwe; and vocalist/percussionist Phil Kouwe along with others who help fill out the band’s sound. Together, the band creates some of the best and most authentic sounding polka music around today.

Having already produced three albums of classic polka tunes and originals, the band decided to try their hand at the Christmas album. The resulting release, entitled Polka Round the Christmas Tree, finds the band creating a release that encompasses several different angles of Christmas time: the studio recordings, the solo performance and the caroling ensemble. Each of these musical angles is well represented on the new album from The Chardon Polka Band.

For the studio recordings, The Chardon Polka Band interprets songs like “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” and “Joy to the World” in a way that brings together the feel of the original arrangements of the songs and gives them the polka treatment. While it might seem slightly weird to hear traditional Christmas tunes as polkas, the resulting tracks are presented as very upbeat and light-hearted songs. For those searching for something different than the usual songs heard on the radio day after day throughout the time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, these studio tracks are just what you’re looking for.

Turning to another staple of the Christmas season, several tracks on the Polka Round the Christmas Tree release are presented with a single trombone interpreting the tunes. Songs like “O, Tannenbaum,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain” are performed by Dan “T-Bone” Verney in a solo setting that allows Verney’s single trombone to shine. The tracks will remind many of the times of hearing musicians setting up on the street during the Christmas season to spread a little joy through the playing of these songs.

Yet another staple of the Christmas season is also included in this release. Three tunes are presented by the band in an acoustic setting that is perfect for caroling. The tracks “Deck the Halls,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” are presented in a live setting as the band goes from one house to another spreading holiday cheer wherever they go. The three songs give a nice sampling of what the band can do when in a live, acoustic setting. The “live” feeling adds a bit of fun to the CD.

Most of the new release features The Chardon Polka Band creating new versions of well-known Christmas tracks. However, they do include one original track to the album. While there have been songs that were written about Frosty, Rudolph, Santa and other classic Christmas-themed characters, very few songs have been written about the lesser-known characters from other holiday traditions. The Chardon Polka Band adds another character to the list- The Krampus, a creature from Alpine folklore. “The Krampus Song” tells of the Krampus and how he works alongside Saint Nicholas but instead of bringing presents to the good children, the Krampus terrorizes the bad children. “The Krampus Song” adds a bit of Old World flavor to the new release from The Chardon Polka Band.

The many different aspects to the new Christmas release from The Chardon Polka Band help to make Polka Round the Christmas Tree one of the more unique albums for the holiday season. If you have been looking for something different for your holiday music listening, this is truly a good place to start.

  1. Senczyszak says:

    Great post! Sounds like a rival album to ‘Polka, Polka, Polka’ by the Kenosha Kickers!

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