photos by George Brainard Greetings! 
I'm Brian Marshall
Texas-Polish danceband fiddler.
Welcome to my place.
"...these guys are to Texas polka what Beausoleil is to Cajun music."
                                                                                - John Morthland, Texas Monthly


New CD Release

We finally loaded up the full dance band and headed over to Houston's legendary Sugar Hill Studios to make our latest CD, Texas Lowlands.

We started with a bucket of beer, a cooler full of good Bremond sausage and a bottle (or two) of Polish vodka. 8 hours later, we had this CD. Seemed like a normal enough day but evidently they don't make records like that anymore and it made news.


Mike StinnettAlong with Dennis Bielamowicz and Chuck Bolin on guitar and drums, we had special guests Mike Stinnett on reeds, David Slovak on accordion and Mark Rubin on the "maly bas" (3 string bass fiddle.) It was a big party in the studio and we're mighty proud of the results.Mark Rubin 3 string bass







You can listen to sample tracks and even order it on line at this secure site. You can also find it on iTunes as well
 
 
 

 
 
Texas KapelaPraise for last year's TEXAS KAPELA!


Brian,


I listened to it again last night. That is one of the best versions of "Miala Baba Koguta" I've ever heard. It is pure soul.

I never thought I would like polkas with a guitar, but it is really done  tastefully. What I like, perhaps the best, is that you present the songs in a  fashion that is pleasing to Polish polka fans, Polish music fans, Fiddle  fans, Country fans, and so on. I can't say enough about it.

Keep up the great work! Trzymaj sie!


-Mark, Editor, Polish American Journal, 6 Mar 2003

Brian,
 My sincere thanks for the promo copy of TEXAS KAPELA.

 Several years back I did a piece for the PAJ News entitled, "Growing up Polish" where I related my years at my Uncle's (My Grandfather and Grandmother started this place) corner bar. Litwin's Blue room was the place where music could always be found, especially on the weekends. These weren't "organized sessions," but started when someone requested a
tune and I dragged out the accordion, my Uncle Tony Siedlecki pulled out his fiddle and someone grabbed a washboard.  The music came from my Grandparents and their grandparents. It was a time I returned to my Polish roots, following those "short" early teen years when I stopped taking accordion lessons.

 After the first track on your CD, I was immediately transposed back to those days when "Uncle Tony was on fiddle, I was on accordion and Litwin's backroom was filled with people on a Friday or Saturday night."

 Musically, Texas Kapela is exciting because it has its roots in those villages of Poland where people didn't play music from a piece of paper, but from their hearts.  You have captured this perfectly in this session.


Here's his reveiw:

  Brian Marshall is right in the midst of the Polish heritage of Texas. Places like Panna Maria, Chappel Hill and Bremond reflect a music that connects to the villages of Poland, with violin, bass and a noticeable lack of brass. With the release of his new CD, "Texas Kapela," the feeling and spirit of those early Poles in the great state of Texas has been captured for all to enjoy.
  This "live" CD, recorded without overdubs and in "real time," features music from the heart and not from a piece of paper. Marshall is on Fiddle, button box, Rubin on stand up string bass and Ron Kasowski on guitar and fiddle. It's down home style, but blends the down-home of a Polish Texas jam session and the flavor of the village music of Poland.

  As producer Mark Rubin wanted, it is Brian on a folding chair, a cooler of beer nearby, a fiddle in hand, and music that comes from an era of our grandparents and their grandparents.

  "Miala Baba Koguta," "Celia Polka," "Ojeic Wielki," "Parobek" oberek, and "Roman's" oberek are just a few of the 18 tracks on this first rate "Polish and Proud" product from land of the cattle, and the Alamo. Marshall's makes his fiddle sing as he makes these old tunes sound new in an old way. If you love the roots of today's polka music, this CD is belong in your collection.

-Steve Litwin, Polka Editor, PAJ news, 3/14/2003

Order your copy at this secure site, or find us on iTunes.

*

Listen to MP3's from TEXAS KAPELA

Miala Baba Koguta  (3.1mb)                          Krakowiak (2.6mb)




We had a blast at the 2002 National Folk Festival in Bangor ME. Thanks again to all the nice folks who came out, danced and said howdy! We sure do appreciate y'all support! We sold out of our Arhoolie CD "Texas Polish Roots," so drop us a line you'd like to get info on how to get a cop.



Praise for Texas Polish Roots!

"In the nineteenth century, Polish bands used fiddles to create a distinctly Texan sound. The rural sound died out decades ago, but Brian Marshall and His Tex-Slavik Playboys bring it back with grace and verve on Texas Polish Roots (Arhoolie). A Houston native with Bremond roots, Marshall has a fiddle style redolent of the Old Country while containing elements of Western swing as well. The tunes are nearly all traditional, but they're more for dancers than folklorists; these guys are to Texas polka what Beausoleil is to Cajun music."

- John Morthland, Texas Monthly

 

 


Polska Kapela Marszalka z Texasu
Mark Rubin,          Brian Marshall,           Ron Kasowski


Polish Polka in Texas by Brian Marshall

There are over 50,000 people of Polish descent in the Houston and surrounding areas.  As a Texan of Polish descent, I can add that Polish music has been an integral part of my appreciation of my Polish heritage.  For many others, it may be their only link to their cultural past.

Many people are not aware that Polish music is or ever was alive in the Texas region.  Prior to 1980 there were only nine recordings in existence representing the Texas Polish style.  Six cuts were by Steve Okonski who represented the Robertson County style; three others were by Randy and the Rockets with well-liked fiddler Pete Kwiatkowski who represented the Washington County style.  But I jump ahead of myself.

Polish settlers came to Texas as early as the mid-1800s and settled south of San Antonio in a village named Panna Maria.  I have no knowledge of the music from this area.  Twenty to thirty years later a much larger wave began arriving and established themselves in Texas areas that are now New Waverly, Stoneham, Anderson, Carlos, Brenham, Bremond, and Chappell Hill, to name a few.  Mostly of peasant stock, these immigrants had very few possessions.  They did bring their Catholic faith, culture and music.  In many ways the traditions have been lost, but they did well in maintaining
their faith and their music.

The music has been passed down orally from generation to generation and this tradition continues today.  The music of these peasant Poles typically consisted of a fiddle, a bowed bass, and an occasional clarinet:  Later, guitars, drums, and accordions were introduced, though I'm sure the accordion was a Czech influence as it was not accepted as a Polish instrument at the time of this Texas migration. Music was played at all weddings and family gatherings, and this tradition continues today.  Until recently, formal recordings of this music were not considered a necessity as it was not looked upon as a marketing tool.  Only when the tradition started weakening did certain musicians take it upon themselves to "document" the age-old tunes.

Two distinct styles of Polish music exist in Texas.  They reflect regional differences that came to America with the Polish settlers.  Poles in the Chappell Hill/Brenham area had a rhythmic sawing style that created strong rhythms while a more melodic sound dominated the Bremond area, the largest Polish settlement in Texas.

Because of the distance and separation of Texas from the northern states, the instrumentation and sound of Polish music in Texas did not progress as it did in Chicago and New York.  In fact, many Texas Poles shunned the idea of horns in Texas Polish bands because they felt that it Czechanized the music.  That is not to say that Texas Poles did not enjoy and support the dominant Czech sound found in Texas.  However it did depict people who were proud of their own unique heritage.

Over the past ten years, many recordings have been made that document the old tunes and represent the distinct styles that we have.  This has also introduced Texas Polish music to new generations, both Poles and non-Poles.  It should be noted that one would he hard pressed to find the traditional fiddle-driven style of Polish music that is enjoyed in Texas today, even if he or she were to travel to Poland in-search of it.  This is antiquated music representing a time that has passed, yet it lives on.  The tunes and musical style of Texas Polish music is unique. 

Texas Polonia should be proud of their success in keeping this tradition alive for well over a hundred years!

"Niech Zyje Polska Tradycja"

Photos from the
2002 National Folk Festival in Bangor ME
Photos by J.Sanford

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2002 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes
Port Townsend WA


On stage with dancers

Follow this link to see some great photos of our mainstage performance by Kevin Eiliff



"A triumph!!" - Warren Argo, Festival Director



Out on Water street..
 
With our new best friends, Stefan and Judith




"Szala Kaszka" our student's band!

    Standing (L to R):
    Carmen Ficarra, Dave Barton, Karen Warrick, Wendy Cutler,
    Don Boothby, Dan Warrick, Mary Nelson, Mark Rubin,
    Mimi Boothby, Bob Palasek,  Glenn Dudley.

Kneeling:
 Ron Kasowski, Brian Marshall.




Here they are rehearsing!

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