Selwyn Birchwood at The Alley
Event Date: 2019-11-29 20:00:00
Cost: 10 – 10 USD
With his fiery guitar and lap steel playing, his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs and gritty, unvarnished vocals, Selwyn Birchwood is among the most extraordinary young stars in the blues. His deep familiarity with blues tradition allows him to bust the genre wide open, adding new sounds, colors and textures, all delivered with a revival tent preachers fervor and a natural storytellers charisma. Since the 2014 release of his Alligator Records debut, Dont Call No Ambulance, Birchwoods meteoric rise from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages is nothing short of phenomenal, as he continues to set the contemporary blues world on fire. The album received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014, and he won the 2015 Blues Blast Rising Star Award. Selwyn and his band have crisscrossed the U.S. and Europe repeatedly, delivering unforgettable live performances. With his new album, Pick Your Poison, Birchwood takes a major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans. Birchwood, who attacks his guitar and lap steel with searing intensity, wrote and produced all 13 songs on Pick Your Poison. His richly detailed, hard-hitting originals run the emotional gamut from the humorously personal My Whiskey Loves My Ex to the gospel-inflected Even The Saved Need Saving to the hard truths of the topical Corporate Drone and Police State to the existential choice of the title track. The cutting-edge songs are made all the more impactful by Birchwoods gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his bands seemingly telepathic accompaniment. According to Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer, who signed Birchwood to the label shortly after the bluesman won the 2013 International Blues Challenge and also the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award at the same event, Selwyn writes smart, infectious, fresh songs and delivers them with a warm, conversational vocal style and a fun-loving attitude. Hes a killer guitarist, switching between a regular six-string and lap steel. Live, hes a ball of energy, interacting with the audience like they were in his living room. Birchwoods high-octane bluesat once deeply rooted, funky and up-to-the-minuteare played with passion and honest emotion. With his band feeding off his drive and exuberance, the striking 63 young man with his trademark Afro roams the stage (often barefoot), ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease, his soulful, rocks-and-gravel vocals firing up the crowd. His ability to win over an audienceany audienceis proven night after night on the bandstand. With his warm, magnetic personality, Birchwood is as down-to-earth as his music is fun, thought-provoking and vital. His mission is to spread his music far and wide, to share his joy, to play his heart out, and to push the blues into the future. Theres nothing Id rather be doing than playing the blues, he says. And I try to convey that with every song and with every performance. Birchwood, his father from Tobago, his mother from the UK, was born in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s didnt move him, and he quickly grew bored. And then he heard Jimi Hendrix. He was larger than life. What he did was mind-blowing. When I realized Hendrix was influenced by the blues, I found my path, he says. By 17, he was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy. As luck would have it, just as Birchwood was discovering Guy, the blues master had a concert scheduled in Orlando. Birchwood was there, front and center. I was floored, he recalls. I completely connected with the blues. I knew I had to make this music. As Selwyns guitar proficiency grew, a friend told him that his neighbor was a blues guitarist and had a band. The 19-year-old Selwyn went over to check it out and jam. The guitar-playing neighbor turned out to be the Texas-born blues legend Sonny Rhodes, who was instantly impressed with the enthusiastic young guitar slinger. Within one months time, Rhodes asked Birchwood to pack his bags and join him on the road. It was an incredible experience for Birchwood, as Rhodes took the young man under his wing, teaching him not only guitar and lap steel, but also how to conduct business, how to run a band, and how to reach an audience. Sonny always said, Play whats in your heart. Ive never lost sight of that, says Birchwood. With his 2014 Alligator Records debut album, Dont Call No Ambulance, Selwyn Birchwood announced his arrival on the international blues stage. The album is a fully realized vision of contemporary blues. Between his uninhibited sense of fun and adventure and his serious-as-a-heart-attack musicianship, Dont Call No Ambulance opened a door into a bright future for the blues. Rave reviews ran in publications from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal, from The Chicago Tribune to The San Francisco Chronicle. Birchwood has opened for major blues stars including Robert Cray and Buddy Guy and has shared the stage with another friend and teacher, Joe Louis Walker. Not long ago, Selwyn had the opportunity, when performing in San Francisco, to bring his friend and mentor Sonny Rhodes on stage to sit in with his band. It was a moment Birchwood will never forget. He did so much for me; it was a real honor to return the favor.
114 South Park Avenue
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