Mike Munson – Rose Hill
Mike Munson toured with Jimmy “Duck” Holmes in 2015 and ever since Duck has wanted Mike to record on country blues label Blue Front Records. Holmes is noted as one of the Bentonia raw blues greats. In summer 2016 Munson walked to Jack Owen’s Blues Trail Marker and then continued on to where his house used to be. The album was first synthesized in Munson’s mind as he walked that road, named Rose Hill.
The Blue Front Café where this was recorded also saw the likes of Jack, Skip James, and many others over the years. Munson writes and plays in that Bensonia style and covers several songs here: Jack Owen’s “Jack Ain’t Had No Water” (with Duck on harp), Skip James “Illinois Blues,” “Shake Em On Down” by Booker White, Duck’s “Broke & Hungry” and the traditional “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning.”
Munson begins with “Rotgut Devil,” a cool slide tune with heavy guitar and slick vocals in a country blues style. Munson plays some great guitar in that Bentonia style- guttural and visceral stuff. Owen’s cut follows. Here we get a prettier and cleaner acoustic guitar sound and some nice country harp, too. The slow and deliberate pacing and old style sound is addictive. UP next is “Sinner,” a pensive and darker cut. It’s simple, stark and just cool stuff. Skip James is up next; Munson finger picks sweetly and sings so well again. The title cut features beautiful stuff. Munson plays with feeling and emotion as he picks out some very cool stuff. What a beautiful instrumental piece!
Side B opens with “Keep Your Lamps…” and again features outstanding picking, slide and some distorted and slick vocals. Well done! Holmes song follows with Libby Rae Watson on the saw. Watson plays the saw and adds an air of mystique and just cool sounds to the piece. Munson sounds authentic vocally and picks out some fine country blues. “Good As Good Can Be” is up following that, a sweet slow cut. “Rat Catcher” follows and picks up a pace just a bit, more interesting stuff. Booker White’s tune features some slick slide and a nice groove. There is lots more super finger-picking here. A short saw interlude is in between “Shake “Em On Down,” a spooky and ethereal sound of saw and guitar fluttering about. “Big Black” seems to be another version of “Sinner” or at least similar lyrically. Dark and foreboding, it’s very cool with a different guitar and tone than “Sinner.” A four second post track that appears blank ends the set.
This is a great album. Here we have an acoustic album that will garner lots of attention for awards for 2018. Munson is an exceptional guitar player and finger picker. His singing is solid and authentic. The original songs he wrote and played are in that Bensonia style and had a great authentic feel. The covers are also great; Munson has done an exception job here and I think we will be hearing a lot more great stuff from him- highly recommended!