TAMPA – Visionary blues star Selwyn Birchwood will perform Saturday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m., at Skipper’s Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the door. Visit www.skipperssmokehouse.com.
Birchwood released “Pick Your Poison,” his forward-looking new CD on Alligator Records, in May 2017.
On the new album, Birchwood — along with his band: saxophonist Regi Oliver, bassist Huff Wright and drummer Courtney “Big Love” Girlie — takes a major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.
With his fiery guitar and lap steel playing; his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs; and his gritty, unvarnished vocals, Birchwood is one of the most remarkable young stars in the blues. According to a biographical sketch provided by Alligator Records, Birchwood possesses a deep familiarity with blues tradition, which allows him to bust the genre wide open, bringing innovative new sounds, colors and textures. He delivers these with a distinctive style that blends a revival tent preacher’s fervor and a natural storyteller’s charisma.
Since the 2014 release “Don’t Call No Ambulance,” Birchwood’s Alligator Records debut, the powerhouse guitarist’s journey from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages can be described as phenomenal. “Don’t Call No Ambulance” received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014. Birchwood also walked away with the 2015 Blues Blast Rising Star Award.
Over the last few years, Birchwood and his band have crisscrossed the United States and Europe repeatedly, delivering unforgettable live performances. With “Pick Your Poison,” Birchwood takes another major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.
Birchwood 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 Birchwood’s gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his band’s seemingly telepathic accompaniment.
“I write and sing what I know,” said Birchwood in a press release. “This album has a broad reach. It’s for young, old and everyone in between.”
Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer signed Birchwood to the label shortly after the bluesman won the 2013 International Blues Challenge as well as 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,” Iglauer said. “He’s a killer guitarist, switching between a regular six-string and lap steel. Live, he’s a ball of energy, interacting with the audience like they were in his living room.”
Birchwood was born in 1985 in Orlando. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. He quickly grew tired of the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s.
Then he heard some classic Jimi Hendrix.
“He was larger than life,” Birchwood said. “What he did was mind-blowing. When I realized Hendrix was influenced by the blues, I found my path.”
By 17, Birchwood was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy.
Birchwood announced his arrival on the international blues stage with 2014’s “Don’t Call No Ambulance.”
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, “Don’t Call No Ambulance” opened a door into a bright future for the blues.
“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than playing the blues,” Birchwood said. “And I try to convey that with every song and with every performance.”