Mike Munson met Jimmy “Duck” Holmes by accident when he traveled to Bentonia, Mississippi.
“I wanted to stop in the town of Bentonia to see where Skip James lived,” he said.
At that time, Munson didn’t know what Blue Front Cafe was, so he stopped in. (By the way, Blue Front Cafe is owned by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, a blues musician who is known to be the last of the Bentonian bluesman.)
“Jimmy welcomed me and we chatted, then I left.”
Years later after the initial meeting, Holmes and Munson had reconnected. Holmes had become a mentor and a friend.
They had talked stylistically about blues and the Bentonian blues style, which is distinct compared to other blues.
He had traveled and performed with Holmes from Mississippi to the Vancouver Folk Festival.
“In those moments, I’d watch him play and connect with this idea of transmitting to the audience — connecting to move them with his voice and style of playing guitar,” Munson said. “I’ve learned a lot about playing sitting next to him.”
Munson began playing guitar when he was 12 living in the Twin Cities. He credits his parents for having music readily available at home, such as the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, both of which were heavily influenced by blues.
It was Chuck Berry, however, who drew Munson in.
“It seemed like it was magic what he was doing.” He thought, “I got to figure that out.”
In particular, listening to the early recordings of Muddy Waters that inspired him.
“It hit me as a young person, being so emotionally charged.”
Munson hadn’t been recording or performing music when he moved to Winona, where he now lives, to go to school at St. Mary’s. He just hadn’t found his voice with the music at that moment.
Munson’s song “Too Far Gone” was the first he wrote that he began to play around with his style.
“That song is interesting because it’s blues … but it’s not,” he said.
He drew in all that he had learned about blues and country blues music to make this song. In doing so, he also found his voice and his own style.
“That was one of the first moments that the song kind of hit for me,” he said. “It felt good and natural, and it’s still fun to play.”
Munson has three albums out, “Live at Ed’s,” “Rose Hill” and his latest project, “Anthem.”
The project was recorded in the skate park in Winona during the off hours, usually Monday mornings. It was just him and his electric guitar.
“I would just go play guitar and it’d be really different music,” Munson said.
The sound on “Anthem” is not blues at all. He loves blues, he said, but he generally just loves the electric guitar.
He compares it to the skateboarders who are out on their boards in the park and enjoying their craft — having fun. Munson wanted to have fun with his guitar.
Though it’s not blues, he hopes his energy and emotion remain in the recordings for the listeners. Also, 100% of the proceeds from sales of that album go directly to the skate park in Winona.
Munson will perform Tuesday at MSU. He plans to tell stories about his time in Mississippi and working with Holmes, the Betonian blues style and his album “Rose Hill.”
Overall, he plans on playing exciting music for those who appreciate guitars and the blues.
“Even if they are familiar with blues, what I’m playing is a little atypical within that.”