Papa John Kolstad
& the Hot Club of East Lake,
(Wampus Cat, 2003)

Despite the long name, Papa John Kolstad & the Hot Club of East Lake have a very solid and condensed sound providing a splendid mix of early blues, swing, jugband and jazz. This self-titled debut album contains vocals and instruments that intricately complement each other, forming a tight interconnection of tone and timbre.

The title performer, Kolstad, has a vocal tone that is broadly appealing. It's neither deep nor high nor loud nor soft nor twangy nor wispy. He has a really neutral voice (in a good way) that is a pleasure to hear yet doesn't stretch any envelopes. He almost sounds like voice actor Jack Sheldon, commonly heard on Saturday mornings as Louie the Lightning Bug or on Schoolhouse Rock ("I'm Just a Bill"). (Take a listen to the slacker's anthem "I Ain't Doin' Bad Doin' Nothin'" and tell me he doesn't sound like Sheldon.)

The rest of the Hot Club of East Lake is Same Fiske (trumpet, bass), Dean Mikkelson (lead guitar, rhythm guitar) and Clint Hoover (harmonica, vocals). A lot of the information submitted with the CD raves about Hoover's harmonica. Hoover's no slouch on the harmonica, but Fiske is stellar on the bass guitar and trumpet.

For instance, Hoover and his harmonica take center stage in the addictive tongue-twister "Flat Foot Floogie," but it's the subtle trumpet that really ties together all the song's elements. In the instrumental "Autumn Leaves," the positive effect of his trumpet is more obvious. Fiske's bass guitar also provides the perfect backdrop for Papa John's vocals in the nice rendition of Gershwin's "Lady Be Good."

The song with the best balance of all the talents is "Wee Midnight Hour." It's almost like one of those episodes of Superfriends in which the team splits up for a bit of individual screen time yet regroups at the end for success.

The self-titled debut of Papa John Kolstad & the Hot Club of East Lake is an enjoyable collection of jazz/blues songs with a nice capstone instrumental tune. The performances have a universal appeal that should please hardcore jazz/blues fans as well as those that dabble in all musical styles. This isn't one of those albums that you will play over and over, eventually losing its desirability through repetition. Instead, this is one of those steady types that will always provide an even and enjoyable sound for many years.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 13 March 2004

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