Join Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary with none other than Selwyn Birchwood and Damon Fowler on Friday, June 9, 2023 at 8:00pm
Although award-winning Florida musician Selwyn Birchwood is firmly rooted in the tradition, the young guitarist, lap steel player, songwriter and vocalist sets a course for the future of the blues with his visionary, original music. Birchwood, whose band features the pulsating interplay of his blistering guitar with Regi Oliver’s driving baritone sax, deploys a singular sound and style all his own. He calls it “Electric Swamp Funkin’ Blues,” an intoxicating mix of deep blues, blistering, psychedelic-tinged rock, booty-shaking funk and sweet Southern soul, played and sung with the fire-and-brimstone fervor of a revival tent preacher with a hellhound on his trail. Tastemaker Americana music magazine No Depression says, “Selwyn Birchwood reaches back in the blues tradition to launch something out of this world.”
On his new release, Exorcist (his fourth for Alligator and sixth overall), Birchwood delivers the most far-reaching, musically adventurous album of his career. Exorcist was recorded in Florida and produced by Grammy Award-winner Tom Hambridge, with each of the 13 vividly detailed songs written and arranged by Birchwood. The soul-baring tracks all hit with lasting rhymes and unexpected rhythms. Each twists its own tale, ranging from the love-gone-wrong Horns Below Her Halo to the love-gone-terrifying Exorcist to the ripped-from-the-headlines escapades of FLorida Man and Swim At Your Own Risk to the autobiographical Underdog. According to Blues Music Magazine, “Selwyn Birchwood heralds a fresh, exciting new direction in the blues. Toe-tapping, hip-shaking, joyful and inviting…expansive and focused, exploratory and time-honored, but always original.”
Live, Birchwood is a force of nature. His ability to win over an audience–any audience–is proven night after night on the bandstand. With his warm, magnetic personality, Birchwood is as down-to-earth as his music is thought-provoking and electrifying. With his band feeding off his energy, the 6’3″ musician roams the stage barefoot, ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease, his soulful, rocks-and-gravel vocals firing up his fans. When he sits down to play his lap steel, he takes the crowd to a whole other level, with the music exorcising any bad times and troubles.
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 didn’t move him. And then he discovered Jimi Hendrix. “He was larger than life. What he did was mind-blowing.” As luck would have it, just as Birchwood was learning Hendrix’s guitar playing was steeped in blues, legendary bluesman Buddy Guy–a major influence on Hendrix–was scheduled to perform in Orlando. Birchwood was there, front and center. “I was floored,” he recalls. “I completely connected with the blues. I knew this was my path, and I had to make this music.” He dove deep, listening to icons including Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and of course, Buddy Guy. “The flood gates opened,” says Birchwood, “and at that point I started trying to absorb as much as I could.”
At 19, Birchwood met and connected with veteran blues guitarist Sonny Rhodes, who was instantly impressed by the enthusiastic young guitar slinger. Within one month’s time, Rhodes asked Birchwood to pack his bags and join him on the road. 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 what’s in your heart.’ I’ve never lost sight of that,” says Birchwood.
Birchwood treasured his time with Rhodes but was adamant about completing his college studies. Rhodes, as a tribute to Birchwood’s drive and talent, made it clear to the young musician that he would hold the rhythm guitar spot in his band open for Selwyn whenever he was available. Birchwood–through hard work and scholarships–received his MBA from The University of Tampa. Combining the musical lessons learned from Rhodes and his business acumen, Birchwood created The Selwyn Birchwood Band in 2010, featuring seasoned, veteran musicians who had chosen to play with the new kid–a testament to Birchwood’s talent and leadership skills.
In 2011 the self-released, self-produced FL Boy helped the band land gigs outside of their Florida base, where they were already becoming local heroes. After winning the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (beating 150 other bands), Birchwood found doors swinging open. He took a giant step forward in 2014 with his Alligator Records debut album, Don’t Call No Ambulance. Rave reviews ran in publications from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal, from The Chicago Tribune to The San Francisco Chronicle. The album won both the Living Blues Award and the Blues Music Award (BMA) for Best New Artist Debut. He followed in 2016 with fan-favorite Pick Your Poison and, in 2021, with the groundbreaking Living In A Burning House. He won the coveted BMA Song Of The Year Award for that album’s I’d Climb Mountains.
Now, with Exorcist, Selwyn Birchwood and his band are ready to get back on the road and deliver the new songs live to us while we celebrate, dance and eat Anniversary cake at Skipper’s On Friday, June 9th.
See you there!!