Award winning cabaret performer Veronique Chevalier has set her sights high with this collection: she wants to create a lasting Halloween classic. That's no easy feat, and a dangerous road to walk. After all most "classic" halloween" tunes are best remembered as novelty songs. The hard part is pulling off something as memorable as "Monster Mash". The concern is this: does the world need another absurd ditty?
As befits her goal Veronique takes a daring approach with her lyric writing: each of the thirteen (plus one) songs found on "Polka Haunt Us" is inspired by a folk tale plundered from around the globe. Canada gives us the suitably rollicking "Ghost Train", fans of gypsy influenced music will love "Full Moon Face Off" and "Devil's Guitar" explores the 20th century American legend of bluesman Robert Johnson. Other stops include Norway, Spain and Agentina.
It's like riding Tim Burton's version of Disney's "It's a Small World" ride. It's a small world, but it's a twisted one as well.
Mlle Chevalier has the best trick up her sleeve to make her musical treats work: instead of taking on all of these songs herself she's enlisted a variety of friends, talented players and other mad geniuses. Her little Halloween fete includes Grammy nominated accordionist Alex Meixner, Lili Haydn (the "Jimi Hendrix of the violin"), yodeler Kerry Christensen, an afro-brazillian percussionist, guitar mastermind Goh Kurosawa... even a member of the "Police Academy" cast. The end result: a slightly tipsy party thrown in honor of everybody's favorite wicked holiday.
Not surprisingly the end results sound markedly (and intentionally) varied. The CD starts off in familiar territory for those acquainted with Veronique's work. "The Beer Hall in Hell" is goofy polka meant to get your attention, and get you out of your seat. "Castle Leap" and "Fisher Bird Girl" both play out in a operatic baroque mode, with the fomer being a touch frothier than the latter. Track 9 is the wonderful "Blank Faced Goblins" which echoes Rasputina with it's style, both sinister and child-like. Kurosawa's fretwork on the afore mentioned "Devil's Guitar" is positively metallic. Like any good party mix "Polka Haunt Us" keeps the styles coming and the flow moving.
The only thing that's really lacking is geniune creepiness. Of the fourteen tracks only "Kalkajaka Polka" is certifiably chilling. It's a great song, but seems a little lonely.
So if you're hunting for something truly haunting you may be out of luck, but if you're looking for a fun collection of world-span goodtimes, then you are very lucky indeed. Because, honestly, the world can never have enough absurd ditties.