By Mike O’Cull
Rapidly emerging young blues mastermind Selwyn Birchwood tells his own stories his own way on his new release Living In A Burning House. Scheduled to drop January 29th, 2021 on Chicago’s Alligator Records, Birchwood displays a high degree of relevant greatness on guitar, vocals, and lap steel as well as a talent for writing innovative and insightful original music that speaks to the modern world. Produced by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Susan Tedeschi), Living In A Burning House is a career-making record that moves Birchwood and the blues as a whole forward in a remarkable way that shows reverence for the past but presents listeners with fresh sounds and ideas that will undoubtedly become influential for decades to come. Simply put, Birchwood represents the future of the blues.
Originally from Florida, Birchwood began his musical journey at age 13 and quickly became able to imitate the guitar playing he heard on mid-90s radio. By 17, he was heavily into the blues, soaking up Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and especially Buddy Guy. He won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee in 2013 and unleashed his Alligator Records debut album, Don’t Call No Ambulance, the following year. The record won both the Living Blues Award and the Blues Music Award for ‘Best New Artist Debut’ and put Birchwood on the radar of blues fans everywhere. In non-pandemic times, Selwyn and his band tour relentlessly and have blown minds at The Chicago Blues Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The Mississippi Valley 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 and Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea. He’s toured Europe extensively to strong reviews and built a sterling reputation one amazing gig at a time.
From the beginning of the opening track “I’d Climb Mountains,” it’s clear that Birchwood has his own ideas of what the blues should be. It’s a funky, upbeat song that imitates no person or era but puts down an energetic and contemporary sound that conforms to no rule book save Birchwood’s own. His baritone voice and scorching guitar work will quickly convert new fans and have everyone within earshot up and moving. The band churns out a ridiculously infectious groove that supports Birchwood perfectly and temporarily makes the world a happier place. If this one doesn’t grab you, hold a mirror to your mouth to see if you’re still alive.
“I Got Drunk, Laid, And Stoned” sees Birchwood switching to lap steel and riffing hard. His tone is pleasantly round and full and the mix of it and Regi Oliver’s baritone sax give this crew an identity that’s unique and special. The song is a tough-luck tale of love gone wrong and Birchwood leans all the way into it, making us feel every moment. His inventiveness and fire fill every bit of this new-school blues/rocker and put Birchwood’s visionary tendencies up front for all to see.
The title track, “Living In A Burning House,” is a heavy funk/soul masterwork that delivers the amazing sound of Birchwood and his band fully on the pipe and functioning as a single entity. It’s the sort of song that rocks in an overwhelmingly human way that computer-made beats will never equal and feels like a living, breathing being in itself. “Searching For My Tribe” is a mid-tempo jam that puts forth a message of individuality and nonconformity that will resonate with all the free spirits out there. Birchwood’s vocals are confident and soulful and his guitar playing is bold and impressive.
“Freaks Come Out At Night” features more steel guitar laid over a stomping pocket guaranteed to pack any dance floor. You can feel the house going up for grabs as the band stretches and grooves up to its full potential and beyond. Other sweet moments on Living In A Burning House include “Mama Knows Best” and “Rock Bottom.” Selwyn Birchwood is absolutely part of the vanguard of contemporary blues and roots music and has the chops, muscle, and soul to become one of the legends of the game. DO NOT miss this record.
Pre-order Link for Living In A Burning House
Selwyn Birchwood Online