Mulebone Bluesville Sessions (Red Tug)

New York-based duo Mule bone consists of guitarist/vocalist Hugh Pool and multi-instrumentalist John Regusa. Bluesville Sessions (2011) is the duo's third album on Pool's label, Red Tug Records. The album was mostly recorded at the XM Radio Studios in Washington, DC, in October 2010, with three songs recorded at Excello Recording in New York City in April 2011.

The disc finds Pool playing bootbard, harmonica, and various percussion instruments in addition to his regular duties as singer and guitarist, and Ragusa playing flutes, cornet, fife, pennywhistle, conch shell, and Jew's harp, and when he has time and breath, providing vocal duties on a song or two. The album ins a strong effort of modern blues interpretation with distinct acoustic Delat flavor also mixing elements of folk-rock, ethnic fusion, and pop. The duo opens with the traditional In My Time of Dying (or Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed) played at break-neck speed with a soulful report. The album continues with a couple covers: the feisty stomp of Robert Johnson's Come On in My Kitchen, and the spirited thump of Sleep John Estes' Drop Down Mama. The remainder of the disc's 12 songs is a mixture of covers and originals–highlights include Spider's Web, an untitled instrumental, and Billy Boy Arnold's Come Back Baby.

Mulebone Bluesville Sessions (Red Tug)

If you miss the old New York City-based musical duo of Satan and Adam, who used to frequent clubs and festivals around the U.S., you'll be interested to hear what Mulebone is putting down. This Brooklyn-based musical duo consists of Excello Studios owner Hugh Pool on guitar, boot board, vocals, and harmonica, and John Ragusa on any number of flutes, tin whistles, jaw harp, and Conch shells. Together they are a potent force with a very bright future in contemporary blues.

This recording came about through an invitation from DJ Bill Wax at SirusXM, Radio. As Pool explains on the back of the disc, "to do what we thought was a normal radio promo stop by, crack a couple of jokes, play a couple tunes, connect with the on-air talent, and hopefully the listeners, then head off to the gig. As is often the case when one makes assumptions, we were wrong. It turned out they had the idea to open up their recording studio and engineers to us for a couple hours that afternoon to do whatever we wanted. We started that session - and now this CD - with a song we had never played before...Mulebone status quo."

The results of their afternoon session at the Sirius/XM studios are stellar, and listeners will find much to latch onto there, from the compelling opening notes of "In My Times Of Dying," to the sparse originality of "New Morning," and "Hit My Mark," to their take on Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey." Because of Pool's extensive background producing hundreds of records at his analog, tube-based Excello Recoding Studios - where he's worked on sessions for everyone from Taj Mahal and Barbecue Bob [Pomeroy] to Debbie Harry and Marah - he knows just how Mulebone should sound. I see several summers crowded with festival performances in Mulebone's future. They're just too original sounding and interesting, by way of their instruments and musicianship, to not have on the bill of any blues festival.

Mulebone Bluesville Sessions (Red Tug)

Though it clocks in at barely three minutes, Mulebone's "In My Time of Dying" contains so much desirous urgency for deliverance, it leaves the listener fatigued in a trance-like Delta haze. Slide guitar sounding like it's conjuring the ghost of Skip James, with flute accompaniment as spiraling as Ian Anderson's mad-sorcerer best, such is the scope of Mulebone's Hugh Pool and John Ragusa on Bluesville Sessions. This album is pure, muggy Mississippi afternoon passion, with inventive instrumental know-how and boundless blues expression.

Another venerable cover, Robert Johnson's "Come In My Kitchen," is given an expansive, slow-crawling treatment, Ragusa's fife crying like a world-scorned Delta songbird, Pool's craggy vocal the essence of cotton-field soul. The Pool-penned "Money and Keys" quakes with a John Lee Hooker-like foot stomp and a sinister air- "bone, blood and shadows, the world passes by."

Mulebone seemingly multiplies every ounce of studio ambience on "New Morning," the reverberating pop 'n' lurch of each low string on Pool's guitar hums with steel presence, while Ragusa induces chills playing a conch shell. "Spiders Web" is a no-holds-bared, lunatic picking exercise and chirping flute frenzy, Mulebone's gifted roots practitioners showing off their woodshedding-ripped wares.

Homespun artistry combined with hard-nosed Delta blues, Mulebone's authenticity bleeds through.