No two Gov’t Mule shows are ever the same but even by their own eclectic standards this record takes the band, or should I say took the band, into new musical territory. Although released as part of their recent 20th anniversary celebrations, Sco-Mule is a live collaboration with guitarist John Scofield that dates back to when the band were only five years into their career and starting to really find their own voice. The resulting two shows with the jazz rock legend seems to have become a watershed moment for the band and showed new possibilities as to what their music could be.
Sco-Mule is therefore not only a record of a unique point in time but also describes a pivotal moment in a bands career. What follows is a fairly improvised (only one rehearsal preceded the dates) and wonderfully fluid collection of live instrumental songs. Flitting between jazz and blues, funk, southern rock (the band has its roots in an Allman Brothers side project) and soul, this is a melting pot of all the elder genres, and it is great to hear such masters at work weaving these complimentary sounds together.
Even though it is easy to list the generic building blocks they use to create their sound, some unexpected soundscapes are created along the way. For every recognisable, Scofield, acid jazz signature and bluesy Bonamassa-esque moment, the warped worlds of Zappa and Mingus seem to occasionally overlap just to remind you that this is a group of musicians who can pretty much take their music anywhere they want.
If you thought jazz-rock was the domain of dry and studious academic players or that blues has anything to do with people like Eric Clapton, then this album is the education that you have been waiting for.