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There was a time when learning to play the accordion was on par with learning to knit. But being Texas State Accordion Champion at the age of 13 didn't exactly make Mark Halata a big man on his junior high school campus during the MTV '80s.

Mark is unfashionably in tune with the Czech-Moravian music of his ancestry. He taught himself to play during his formative years. The songs he performs today are songs he has performed his entire life. Weekend trips to Moravia, Texas and exposure to Texas polka bands such as Joe Patek, Wence Shimek and The Red Ravens kept Mark in touch with the music and culture that has always been a part of his life.

As a teenager, Mark was exposed to other forms of accordion-flavored music. He is proficient in country, Cajun, Zydeco, Tex-Mex and even rock 'n' roll. He has performed with The Rounders and the Romeo Dogs, both hybrid retro country and roots rock bands. Mark would occasionally slip in a Czech polka to educate and entertain the crowds on the Texas roots rock circuit. He has jammed with Dave Alvin and Los Lobos. In 1998, Texas Polish fiddler Brian Marshall wanted Mark to play on his acclaimed Polish roots CD.

For Texavia, Mark wanted simple, uncluttered arrangements. He recruited renown Austin bassist Mark Rubin from the band Bad Livers. It would be easier to list the people Mark Rubin hasn't played with. On rhythm guitar and drums are Bruce and Jeff Brosch, respectively, sons of legendary Czech band leader Jimmy Brosch, who wrote the famous Corn Cockle Polka.

So grab a cold beer, a dance partner and have a listen. If you close your eyes, you may find yourself in Hallettsville, Moravia, Praha, Shiner, a country beer joint or a Catholic church picnic. Welcome to Texavia, the Texas-Moravian accordion heaven.

--Frank Motley