Though the Blues Saloon in St. Paul may possess more space and majesty, the Viking has the advantage of smallness: It's always comfortably packed. It also has the advantage of history: The long, narrow West Bank joint with booths lining one side and a stained-glass sun behind the bar has stood in the same place since the 1920s and has served as a blues hangout since the '60s. Participants in the pub's Blue Mondays jams (usually held after 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.) are more often than not local legends, like local blues groundbreaker Willie Murphy. And while the bar's stage is also open to everything from New Orleans funk to bluegrass jug bands, most nights the blues still rule. Here in Murphy's territory, the most casual evening of picking and moaning can become a transcendent roots rave.


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