When I wrote a review on Fritz Scherz’s latest Polka Band CD, some people expressed surprise as if a polka band didn’t deserve serious consideration.
My response was to quote my favorite Zen Master bartender: “Good is good.
Flash info: Fritz’s Polka Band is good.
Now the region’s favorite ethnic combo is back with a new CD, titled “The Hands of Time”.
The CD is Fritz’s tribute to, among others, the family. The title song is actually a song started by Fritz’s father, the late Fred Scherz Sr., shortly before his death and completed by Fritz many years later.
To close the loop, “Tommy’s Lendler” connects three generations through the magic of modern technology.
“After my father passed away, I found a version of this song that my father recorded on tape,” Fritz recalls. “Sound engineer Ron Keck was able to use what my father recorded and included it in the version of this CD, which also features my son, Freddy.”
FPB has evolved from its early years as a traditional polka band to the current version, which adds elements of waltz, country, rock, blues and Cajun.
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That’s not to say that Polka fans will be disappointed with the band’s latest recording. Although the tracks display the eclecticism for which they have become known – including a cover of “All Along The Watchtower” with a pedal wah-wah accordion – there is still enough Polka to appeal to enthusiasts.
Polka music is no longer relegated to the oom-pah right we grew up with. In fact, one of the tracks, “Brothers”, would fit perfectly into the repertoire of any traditional Irish band, while “How do I kiss those lips?” has a distinct Cajun flavor.
“The song had been on a shelf for years because we could never get the tempo I wanted,” says Scherz. “Then a few years ago I mentioned to (former drummer) Mike Faraino that I wrote what I thought was a fun Cajun melody. My band started practicing it and we ended up with a version that we play live.
To add to the enjoyment of the CD, the band invited an impressive roster of guests, including Deen Castronovo (former drummer for Journey, Bad English and Ozzy); Joey Miskulin, who has collaborated with legends like Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, John Denver, Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris; and keyboardist Derek Sherinian who toured and recorded for Alice Cooper and Billy Idol.
Oh, and also a guy named Joe Bonamassa.
“We have been friends with Joe for several years and are huge fans of his style. When I thought of possible special guests, it immediately occurred to me, ”says Fritz. “I was so excited and grateful when he said he would record on one of my tracks.
“The role he played is so perfect for the song.”
The CD is available at all FPB lounges, as well as all standard online sources.
Mark Sisti is an experienced musician who writes about local music for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at [email protected],