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Selwyn Birchwood

Unlike some of his peers, American bluesman Selwyn Birchwood came up through a familiar blues circuit, earning awards from the Blues Foundation and Living Blues before signing a multi-record label deal with Alligator Records. He defines his original music as "electric swamp funkin' blues," and offers a sound defined by raw, soulful musicianship, sung in a gritty baritone and played with fire-and-brimstone fervor. His first two label outings, 2014's Don't Call No Ambulance and 2017's Pick Your Poison, both charted, affording him international touring opportunities. 2021's Tom Hambridge-produced Living in a Burning House registered at or near the top of blues charts internationally; the guitarist and Hambridge re-teamed for 2023's Exorcist. Birchwood was born in Orlando in 1985 to a Tobago-born father and U.K.-born mother. He began playing guitar at 13, studying primarily rock. After encountering the music of Jimi Hendrix, and reading about the Seattle guitarist's primary blues influences, Birchwood also began studying them. By 17, he was not only a dedicated fan and student but was playing electric blues-rock exclusively. In addition to Hendrix, he cites Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Albert Collins among his influences and favorite artists. After graduating high school, he joined the touring band of Sonny Rhodes, and he stayed with the group while attending college at the University of Tampa. After receiving an MBA, Birchwood formed the Selwyn Birchwood Band, whose lineup would eventually coalesce with drummer Courtney "Big Love" Girlie, bassist Donald Wright, and saxophonist Regi Oliver. The group independently released two albums -- 2011's FL Boy and 2013's Road Worn -- prior to winning the 2013 International Blues Challenge award. Their performance earned the attention of Alligator Records' head Bruce Iglauer, who signed Birchwood shortly thereafter. Don't Call No Ambulance, Birchwood's self-produced debut for Alligator, appeared in 2014. It won Best New Artist Album at the 2015 Blues Music Awards and peaked at number six on the Blues Albums charts. Birchwood took to the road for the next several years, playing clubs and festivals across the United States and Europe. His second album for the label, Pick Your Poison, arrived in May 2017 and peaked at number six as well. Following its release, he did more international touring for the next 18 months. Birchwood had been writing a select group of songs for four years before entering the studio for his third Alligator outing. He enlisted Grammy-winning bluesman Tom Hambridge as producer (Buddy Guy, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, Susan Tedeschi), and together they expanded the reach of his sound with keyboards (for the first time) and a full horn section. Living in a Burning House was issued in January 2021 and drew raves reviews across the globe. It charted at or near the top of every credible blues chart. His band toured the festival circuit in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean, as well as playing clubs. In February the following year, he was nominated for a pair of Blues Music Awards, including Song of the Year for "I'd Climb Mountains!" Birchwood and band worked out new material on-stage each night. Upon a short return from the road, he re-enlisted Hambridge as producer and hit Orlando's Phat Planet Studio. They emerged with 2023's Exorcist, his sixth album. Its 13 original songs variously and seamlessly melded a modern blues sound with funky reggae, swampy psychedelia, old-school rhythm & blues, T-Bone Walker-inspired strolling jump, deep blue gospel, soul, and more.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Thom Jurek /TiVo


6 album(s) • Sorted by Bestseller

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