Album Review

Searing Guitar and Vocals

Selwyn Birchwood - Pick Your Poison

Selwyn Birchwood 

Pick Your Poison

Alligator Records

 

 

   This extraordinary young blues songwriter and guitarist has a strong musical foundation.  The music that truly awakened him first was Jimi Hendrix, and then Hendrix opened up the world of the blues to him.  This is the follow-up to Selwyn’s 2014 debut, Don’t Call No Ambulance. His talent is readily on display on this disc, from his inventive prowess on lap steel slide guitar and standard electric guitar to his exceptional songwriting.  The album is slightly out of step with some of the other current blues discs, as there is more emphasis on the stories in the lyrics than on just flashy soloing, and these stories are clearly important to him. His telling of each one initiates the emotion behind it, and this makes his lyrics even more memorable.  These songs are compelling; some are filled with heartbreak and sadness (Haunted) while others have great doses of humor (like My Whiskey Loves My Ex, a song about drunken texting) that will bring a chuckle into your throat.  

 

   The songs that this man writes are literate and straightforward, and exceptional in their ability to grab the listener.  They are delivered in his rough, gravelly voice, a voice that somehow doesn’t seem to fit his tall, thin body.  There is generally a smile on his face that lights up the room no matter which song he is sending out for our enjoyment.  The music is supported by a very tight three piece band with Regi Oliver on saxophones and flutes, bassist, Huff Wright and drummer Courtney “Big Love” Girlie.  All three of them do background vocals, with of course Selwyn Birchwood on lead vocals and guitar. They feed off each other’s chops and energy, creating a great bond with the listener.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCYkZ8jstvg

 

   When Selwyn was a youngster and just learning, someone told him about his neighbor who was a blues guitarist.  This neighbor turned out to be none other than the legendary Texas-born blues singer and guitarist Sonny Rhodes.  Sonny saw the potential in the young man.  He made a spot for Selwyn in his band to join him on the road during the summers while Selwyn was going to college, and then earning his MBA from the University of Tampa.  In 2010 Selwyn put everything together, both business savvy and musical chops, and formed The Selwyn Birchwood Band. 

 

    Pick Your Poison is an adventurous recording that shows off the tremendous growth this artist has made in just a couple of years.  It’s blues played with a passion and feel that belies the artist’s youth.  The guitar riffs are searing and yet played with great intuition for just what is necessary to make each song work.  If you like great music played with touch and sensitivity for what is needed, grab this one up.  

 

 by bob gottlieb and friend