Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

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!!



Avey Grouws Band  at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band

Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen, Bradenton

April 6, 2023


On their return to Bradenton, Avey Grouws Band demonstrated yet again why this under-the-radar band may not be so for much longer. A large and enthusiastic crowd of their loyal fans, and quite a few new faces,  were highly entertained by an eclectic and well executed evening of music at David Shiplett’s Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen.

Led by lead singer and guitarist Jeni Holtan Grouws, and guitarist and vocalist Chris Avey, the band included touring professionals Calvin Johnson (Shaun Murphy, Anthony Gomes) on bass,  Leo Albertoni (Toronzo Cannon) on keys,  and Bryan West on drums.

The band’s blues foundation is evident in their songs, and their semi-final spot at the 2020 International Blues Challenge. Avey Grouws Band achieve a  #10 ranking for their 2020’s debut “Devil May Care” release. Following this was the band’s 2021 recording, Tell Tale Heart. Debuted at #7 on Billboard’s Blues chart. Engineered and produced by Grammy-Award  winner Casey Wasner, who described the music as “rock and roll blues soul.” An apt description for what the band delivered from the stage.

Playing from both recordings, the band also delivered wonderful versions of songs from other artists. On this night, the band’s version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was expertly sung by Jeni and brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation. Yes, it does not get better anywhere in this “big ole goofy world.”

But the band also writes their own music and the quirkily fun Two Day’s Off follows the blues tradition of writing a song from a true story. Just as fun was Dig What You Do – a song that featured vocal harmonies from Jeni and Chris, as well as fine keyboard work from Leo. The lovely ballad There For Me had couples looking into each other’s eyes. Another ballad, Let’s Take It Slow, showed the quality of lyric writing and Jeni’s voice.

Blues run through the fun and energetic I’d Rather Be Drunk, and Chris blues licks complemented Beck and Call Girl. Jeni vocals shone on this song. The band released both songs on a 2018 EP titled “Road To Memphis”.

Chris Avey’s guitar work stands with the best in the business. This is clear during “Mariana.” Eponymously named for the Atlantic Ocean trench, the song is just as deep and wide. It was a marvelously delivered bit of guitar work from Chris. You know the type of guitar playing that when the song starts, you’re not paying attention to the guitar. But a few measures into the song your brain will say that something great is happening. Yes, it’s that type of guitar work. A roller coaster of emotions, with a deep blues-rock crescendo. Some have compared the playing on this song to Robin Trower, and I would not argue with that point.

Local guitarist Vincent Sims joined in the fun and performed Love Her With A Feeling.

The future is bright for Avey Grouws Band. In September they will be performing at Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas – a well-deserved honor. And plans are underway for a return visit to Bradenton in November. Follow the band and Suncoast Blues Society for more information – this show promises to be special.

  • Scott Morris


IBC Band Announcement

IBC Band Announcement

IBC Band Announcement

Calling all musicians…

The Suncoast Blues Society (SBS) has announced the call for Bands and Solo/Duo Acts to compete in the Suncoast Blues Society “Road To Memphis” Competition.

This will be held July 23, 2023 beginning SHARPLY at 1:00pm at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


Entry fee for this year is $25 per act. All acts MUST be members of the Suncoast Blues Society.

Additionally, the Suncoast Blues Society is looking for a “Youth Showcase” Act to represent our Society. All members of the band must be under 21 years of age.

One Band and one Solo/Duo act will be chosen by a set of 5 judges for the honor of representing the Suncoast Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge held January 16th – 20th, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee.

 Here are some of the basic rules as established by the Blues Foundation:

  • An act is limited to two consecutive appearances at the IBC and must then sit out at least one year before being eligible to compete again.
  • An act can only compete in the IBC three times total.
  • An individual may not compete in more than one act in any capacity.
  • A performer who has previously been nominated for a Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Blues Award) shall not be eligible for this competition.
  • A musician cannot compete in the Band Division and the Solo/Duo Division, even if that musician represents a different Affiliate in each.

The IBC adheres to the following criteria for what constitutes a band, what constitutes a solo/duo act, and what constitutes as a youth act:

  • Band – any act with three or more musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.
  • Solo/Duo – any act with one or two musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.
  • Youth – any act that all members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge in Suncoast. PLEASE NOTE: the SBS can appoint a Youth Showcase Act without a local challenge, but if there are multiple acts that would like to try, we will have one.
  • Additionally, this year the Suncoast Blues Society has instituted the following for the “Road To The Challenge”… Any act wishing to be considered must have a current social media presence (Website, Facebook, ReverbNation)


FINALLY, the SBS is also soliciting entrants for the “Best Self-Produced CD” competition.  Entrants must send the SBS 6 copies of their self-produced CD for ranking by an independent panel of judges SELECTED BY THE Suncoast Blues Society Board.

The SBS will then pay for the reproduction of the winners CD and distribution to the national selection panel selected by the Blues Foundation.


  • The CD entered does not have to be performed by the band entered in the 2024 International Blues Challenge.
  • The CD must have been released during November 1, 2022 – October 31, 2023.
  • Judges will evaluate:
    (1) Blues Content
    (2) Musical Performance
    (2) Audio Quality of the Presentation
    (3) Cover Art and Design
    (4) Credits and Liner Information.
  • A performer who has previously been nominated for a Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Blues Award) shall not be eligible for this competition.
  • A CD issued in the name of an otherwise eligible performer, which also includes the contributions of a Blues Music Award nominee may be ineligible, depending on the extent of the contribution.
  • A CD on a record label that has been previously nominated for a Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Blues Award) shall not be eligible for this competition.
  • Compilations are not eligible.
  • Singer, band, society, or local producer may produce the actual CD if the performer is a singer, band or other individual entity.
  • Recordings with established or “known” producers within the industry are eligible if the recording is on the artist’s independent label and not on an established national blues label.
  • If a recording was produced independently but an established blues label has purchased the master for distribution, the recording is still eligible until such time as the established blues label releases the recording.

For more information, contact Vinny Marini at


Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

The Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival tickets ended on Friday, March 24. 

If you are still looking for tickets for the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, please go directly to their website


Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig
Good Man Gone Bad
By Scott Morris

’Good Man Gone Bad’ is just out and about to make a big splash in the blues world.” Tas Cru


Pennsylvania blues man Tom Craig hits the mark with his second recording “Good Man Gone Bad”.

Produced by harmonica ace Mikey Junior and mixed at Fat Rabbit Studios by Dave Gross, this set of tunes follows Tom’s first recording with Soul Patch. “Get Ready for Me “. Comparatively speaking “Good Man” documents Tom’s growth as a musician all while presenting an enjoyable collection of 13 songs that cover most blues styles. But it’s Tom’s writing, and co-writing with Mikey Junior, along with the soulful delivery that rang true for me.

Beginning with the first cut “I’m Working Too Hard” Tom sets a lyrical theme for the recording that hops from one side of a relationship to another. Accompanied by a driving beat Tom professes to be “I’m working too hard for your love”. Many probably have felt similar, but wisely, for the health of their specific relationship kept their own council. Tom’s words might have you saying to yourself “I feel you brother”!

I really enjoy the next track “What A Man’s Gotta Do”. The guitar work accentuates the beat and the harmonica by Mikey Junior lends a nice touch throughout the song, specifically as the song fades out. Performed live this song has people up and dancing.

The title track (You Made A) “Good Man Gone Bad” appears third on the recording and Tom’s soulful voice resonates in this song. This bluesy ballad bespeaks of making “the worst of a good situation”, leading the listener to speculate on the destructive nature of succumbing to temptation. Tom’s vocals are spot on and clearly Tom is at home base with these types of blues ballads.

Harmonica sets the tone on another ballad “It’s All My Fault”, another one of Tom’s fine ballads. The band lends just the right touch with a beat that fits the lyrics. Tom’s guitar solo is perfectly measured.

“Sheepdog”. Well truth be told on first listen I was not quite sure how I felt. But on repeated listens; yes, Tom has crafted a winner! This rocking blues song is a fan favorite during performance, especially memorable was the version performed during Blues Bash at the Ranch with Gabe Stillman lending a hand on slide guitar. This song grew on me. On a recording where my ear preferred the soulful ballads, this is more than an add-in change of pace. “Sheepdog” is a fine song and deserves presence within Tom’s performance set list.

Slowing down, Tom showcases his vocals on “When You Love A Bluesman”.  Perhaps this is when Tom is at his best. His soulful blues vocals and smart lyrics fronting a tight band, and in this song the harmonica rings true. Tom chips in with tasty blues licks on his guitar. The groove captured me right away. Most enjoyable.

“Treat Your Daddy Nice” has a familiar blues beat, and the lyrics make this song work. Once again, this hard-working bluesman asks “baby” to “treat daddy nice” because after all,” I’m the one that makes you feel all right”.

“My Turn to Cry” finishes off the recording with a soulful, saxophone backed ballad. Once again demonstrating that Tom knows how to deliver a song that places “Soul in My Blues”.  Close your eyes and picture slow dances late at night. The symmetry on the recording of the hard-working hero from the first song now practicing patience on the last song is a subtlety that I enjoyed. And the delivery lets the listener speculate on the cause of the tears.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to see Tom perform and grow musically over these past few months. Wintering in Florida Tom put together a tight band that delivered an enjoyable show experience. Secondly, Tom switched roles from front man to sideman while touring with Tas Cru, sometimes on the same day. Tom is putting in the work, to fine success. This is an up-and-coming bluesman to keep an eye on.

Tom has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve as a musician. I intend to “keep my eyes wide open” to see where Tom’s musical journey takes him; I suspect that after a few listens to “Good Man Gone Bad” you will choose to do the same.

“Good Man Gone Bad” is due to be released on April 20, 2021. The recording is presently available for pre-order. For more information visit Tom Craig Band’s website.

Jeremiah Johnson: Hi-Fi Drive By Review

Jeremiah Johnson: Hi-Fi Drive By Review

Jeremiah Johnson: Hi-Fi Drive By Review

Jeremiah Johnson: Hi-Fi Drive By Review
 October 21, 2022  Fidel Beserra 

St. Louis native and natural-born blues rocker Jeremiah Johnson has stood out greatly in recent years on the scene. His brand of feel-good, working man’s blues rock incorporates elements of funk, soul and country in a, if not exactly groundbreaking, still extremely satisfying blend. With a career already solidified by a number of well-received albums and successful stateside and European tours, he is now adding another compelling chapter to his incredible musical journey with the release of Hi-Fi Drive By.

Produced by Paul Niehaus IV and Tom Maloney and featuring several talented backing musicians, the album, as hinted in its title, features a polished mix and production. Each instrument is captured and calibrated with good accuracy and the sound as a whole has just enough breathing space, which results in a clear and expansive sound. In terms of songwriting, the record is structured around rock and blues’ most notorious and identifiable elements, and the influence of Albert and Freddie King, Steve Cropper, and all that classic Stax and Motown sound is quite notorious, with incisive yet tasty fretwork, huge-sounding horns and swaggering vocals being the record’s driving forces.

The dancing, rip-roaring rocker “68 Coupe Deville” opens the album with all guns blazing and is followed by the equally hard-charging “Ball And Chain” and its remarkable chorus. On the other hand, the lush number “Skippin’ School” leans more towards the classic blues/soul structure and impresses for its engaging delivery while the funk rocker “Hot Diggity Dog” boasts an irresistible hook. Similar in structure, “The Squeeze” features perhaps the album’s best horn passages and guitar solos, in addition to a simply thrilling, addicting chorus.

The R&B-infused and Latin-textured “Hot Blooded Love” keeps the bar high with Johnson’s guitar slashing through with absolute finesse, and the catchy JJ Cale-influenced “Sweet Misery” follows suit. Then, the high-energy cut “Quicksand” brings back the rock-oriented approach and combines it with another delicious funk groove. The song also features a delicious, instantly recognizable saxophone riff.

In summary, Hi-Fi Drive By is a roots-oriented album focused on reclaiming and celebrating the core and already long established elements of blues and rock, and while this approach may seem a bit raw and straightforward for some, the magnetism and quality of Johnson’s passionate approach are undeniable.