Pack Mule Project – Depth of Field
11 songs, 50 minutes
Music is such a beautiful thing. People of all talents and all walks of life can play and find common ground. It can sooth and it can excite and it can make decades of distance melt away. That is what the Pack Mule Project’s labor of love Depth of Field is all about. After surviving life threatening surgery in 2018, guitarist Mike Pack called up his old bandmates from the 1980’s, enticed them to come from far reaching parts of the US to Seattle to record a collection of Blues Rock with a twist. This collection of equal parts originals and classic covers is sentimental and easy going and the band’s joy in playing together is infectious.
Pack describes himself as the weak link, having to knock off the rust from years of day job drudgery. In spite of his modesty, Pack is a strong Blues guitarist whose playing holds down the thread of this record. Manny Foglio on most vocals and harp has a scratchy husky tenor that rasps well especially on his original compositions. Bart Richards on bass works well with studio ringers Mike Stone and Jen Gilleran alternating drum seats. But, the really unique element of this group is the flute stylings of Ben Klein. Adding the flute’s airy ethereal tambour to hard driving Blues shuffles and middle eastern flaring instrumentals, the addition of the flute is especially interesting.
The covers Pack and co. choose are not just run of the mill. Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Let Me Explain” and Otis Rush’s “Checking On My Baby” sit nicely next to more well known numbers such as “Walking the Dog” and “Close to You.” Original pieces such as “Change One Thing” and “Rest When I’m Dead” highlight the cathartic experience the musicians had making this record. There are two originals that stand out. The song that Pack recorded the night before his surgery, “Flying By the Seat of My Pants,” is an acoustic rag about being sick and reflecting on not having enough time. The instrumental “Bo Desert Raga” written by flutist Klein is reminiscent of the Butterfield Blues Band’s “East West” with Klein’s flute slithering it’s way through like Bloomfield’s guitar.
Depth of Field is an elevated passion project. Taking the often wide gamut of style that an amateur musician often brings to a project like this, the Pack Mule Project brings focus to this wide array and ends up with a great sounding record that is endearing.