Highway 99 Debut - SELWYN BIRCHWOOD

Saturday, November 18, 2017 8:00PM

1414 Alaskan Way, Seattle, 98101, WA, United States
Tickets: $18.00

 

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 preacher's fervor and a natural storyteller's charisma. Since the 2014 release of his Alligator Records debut, Don't Call No Ambulance, Birchwood's 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, 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.

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 Birchwood's gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his band's seemingly telepathic accompaniment. "I write and sing what I know," says Birchwood, whose innovations are as expansive as his influences. "This album has a broad reach. It's for young, old and everyone in between."

Birchwood's high-octane blues—at once deeply rooted, funky and up-to-the-minute—are played with passion and honest emotion. With his band feeding off his drive and exuberance, the striking 6'3" 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 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 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. "There's nothing I'd 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 didn't 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."