Papa John Kolstad, with Wildman Mike Turk,
Beans Taste Fine
(Philo/Fretless, 1975; Mill City, 2001)

This 14-track CD has three more tracks than the original vinyl release of 1975. The bonus tunes are live, doubling the number of live tracks on the album. The quality is so surprisingly good and clear it is only when you hear some audience participation that you realise some songs aren't studio recordings.

The whole album is very definitely alive, predominantly with the sound of the blues, but with some more influenced by swing or ragtime. Papa John Kolstad is a veteran musician, singer and songwriter, and his gifted playing of the 12-string guitar accompanied by the equally fine talents of Wildman Mike Turk on harmonica make this album a timeless and definitive blues offering.

The title and opening track on Beans Taste Fine is a bright stomping opener, its lyrics providing amusing insight into human behaviour. The tunes seem to come fast and furious, neither singer nor harmonica player pausing for breath, and on the whole it is a toe-tapping, thoroughly enjoyable CD -- despite some of more questionable song titles. "Alabama Women" is a more reflective and downbeat number, Turk's mastery of the harmonica making it wail and sing with a life all its own. A version of George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good" gets the full treatment, and "Viper Drag" appears twice, the additional live recording ending the album. This is classic blues, an excellent blend of vocals, strings and harmonica, that should delight connoisseurs of the genre and encourage new fans to appreciate the full-flavour treatment that Kolstad and Turk give to the album.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 4 January 2003

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