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Music & Concerts
Selwyn Birchwood celebrates new release
Orlando-born blues stars brings show to Skipper’s Smokehouse
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Photo by PAUL NATKIN/ALLIGATOR RECORDS
Skipper’s Smokehouse welcomes Selwyn Birchwood June 6.
TAMPA – Florida's rising young blues star, Selwyn Birchwood, the winner of the 2013 International Blues Challenge, will celebrate the release of his Alligator Records debut, “Don’t Call No Ambulance,” with a live performance on Friday, June 6, 8 p.m., at Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa.

Alligator Records describes Birchwood as a “guitar and lap-steel-playing bundle of pure energy who delivers his original songs with a revival tent preacher's fervor and a natural storyteller's charisma.”

Birchwood plays high-octane blues, deeply rooted, funky and up-to-the-minute. The Florida native delivers his signature sound with true passion and honest emotion.

Birchwood was born in 1985 in Orlando. According to an artist biography provided by Alligator Records, he first picked up a guitar at age 13. A natural, it was no time before he became exceedingly proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But what he was hearing on the radio didn’t inspire him. The 1990s music scene – saturated with grunge rock, hip-hop and metal – wasn’t Birchwood’s cup of tea. He quickly grew bored playing contemporary tunes.

Then he discovered Jimi Hendrix. By 17, Birchwood was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy.

As his guitar proficiency grew, a friend told him that his neighbor was a blues guitarist and had a band. The 19-year-old Selwyn went over to check it out and jam.

The guitar-playing neighbor turned out to be the Texas-born blues legend Sonny Rhodes, who was instantly impressed with the enthusiastic young guitar slinger. Within one month's time, Rhodes asked Birchwood to pack his bags and join him on the road. It was an incredible experience for Birchwood, as Rhodes took the youngster under his wing, not only teaching him guitar and lap steel, but also how to conduct business, how to run a band, and how to reach an audience.

When the time came, Rhodes insisted Birchwood go to college. He assured the rising star that he would always hold the guitar spot in his band open for Birchwood whenever he was available. It was a win-win situation, as 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, now living in Tampa, formed the current version of The Selwyn Birchwood Band in 2010.

In 2011 the self-released “FL Boy” helped the band land gigs outside of their Tampa home, where they were becoming local heroes. Birchwood and his band won their way to spots at the 2012 and 2013 International Blues Challenges in Memphis.

In 2013, Birchwood won the world-renowned International Blues Challenge, beating out 125 other bands from the United States and abroad. He also took home the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award.

The Selwyn Birchwood Band has been touring non-stop since winning the IBC.

The band has performed at festivals including The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Springing Te Blues Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, The North Atlantic Blues Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival as well as on The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Birchwood has opened for major blues stars including Robert Cray and Buddy Guy and has shared the stage with another friend and teacher, Joe Louis Walker.

Birchwood recently had the opportunity, when performing in San Francisco, to bring his friend and mentor Sonny Rhodes on stage to sit in with his band.

In March, Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer announced he had offered Birchwood a contract. Birchwood’s label debut, “Don't Call No Ambulance,” is set for release June 10.

Alligator Records hails “Don't Call No Ambulance” as a fully realized vision of contemporary blues.

Birchwood's original songs range from raucous romps to hill country stomps, from searing, serious slow blues to modern blues rock. Between his uninhibited sense of fun and adventure and his serious-as-a-heart-attack musicianship, “Don't Call No Ambulance” is a window into the future of the blues.

"All originals and no filler," Birchwood said in a press release promoting the album release. “It's that genuineness of emotion in the songs that people can hear."

With the release of “Don't Call No Ambulance,” Birchwood has taken his first step onto the world stage, bringing a new wave of blues to a new generation of blues fans.

"If I can play my music, travel the world, bring happiness to people, then I'm blessed and happy," he said. "It's like Sonny always told me, ‘If you follow your heart, you'll always get what you want.'"

Birchwood will celebrate the release of “Don’t Call No Ambulance” with his June 6 performance at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. On stage, Birchwood possesses an uncanny ability to win over an audience – any audience. With his warm, magnetic personality, Birchwood is as down-to-earth as his music is fun, thought-provoking and vital.

"There's nothing I'd rather be doing than playing the blues," he said in a press release from Alligator Records. "And I try to convey that with every song and with every performance."

TC Carr & Bolts of Blue will open the show. For information about the performance, visit www.skipperssmokehouse.com.

Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 the day of the show. Call 813-971-0666 or visit www.skipperssmokehouse.com.
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