By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
Chuck Thiel and the Jolly Ramblers have come out with a new CD and are heading in a new direction.
After 30 years of playing polkas, the band is mixing up its standard fare with Christian music.
Thiel said he finds the saying "working for the Lord" true - the pay may not be great, but the benefits are.
At Easter, the band released its first album of the year, "The Love of Christ Proclaimed," which was a mix of traditional Christian music with some set to polka melodies.
The just-released CD is called "Old Fashioned Polkas With Altitude," a play on the CD's cover. It is a picture of the band with a snow-covered mountain behind them.
Around October, the band will release a Christmas CD/tape.
The move to Christian music, Thiel said, was chosen for him.
"I've always been happy with our sound, but we just didn't hit the popularity on the festival circuit that we looked for. We always wondered where we were going," he said. "Now with the change, we know, and I firmly believe God chose us."
The change has increased the number of dates the Jolly Ramblers play, and has also changed where they play.
Thiel said they are playing at more churches on Sundays, which allows the band to be home on Saturdays.
"We're playing about 80 dates this year and half are church services," he said. "The hours are better and we really enjoy what we're doing now.
"We play one hour instead of four, and we keep our price down so it's affordable for the churches . . . playing at the churches allows more family time."
The churches allow the Jolly Ramblers to sell their CDs and tapes at the performances and have sold 2,400 copies of "Share Christ With Your Neighbor," released two years ago.
Thiel has been playing with the Jolly Ramblers for 30 years, a band his dad started 35 years ago.
Ken Schmidt has been with the band for 27 years, and his brother, Jerry, for 24 years. Jerry Kahle has been with the Jolly Ramblers for eight years, and Thiel's son, Jason, for three years.