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Young dynamo Selwyn Birchwood brings the real blues back to his native Orlando

Bao Le-Huu Aug 30, 2018 16:59 PM
Jim Hartzell
Selwyn Birchwood
THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
Selwyn Birchwood Band, Blue Bamboo, Aug. 29

In these parts, blues music effectively qualifies as underground. I don’t mean that generic blues-rock that you find at any basic suburban bar, I mean the real blues. That’s why you might not realize that a star – a current young one, no less – lives among us.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
Selwyn Birchwood is a 33-year-old prodigy who’s spent this decade dusting up the traditional blues circuit. Hailing from Tampa but born here in Orlando, he can be seen playing joints anywhere in between when not on tour or playing a big blues festival. Signed to noted Chicago blues label Alligator Records and the 2013 winner of the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, the guy comes certified.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
Unlike more indie contemporaries like Benjamin Booker or Son Little, Birchwood is resolutely true to the blues roots, a devotion that positions him as a sturdy bridge between the purists and the next generation. That said, his latest full-band performance here did show occasional looks of funk, soul and gospel.


Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
But keep in mind, this singer-guitarist is a Hendrix disciple. And that means that his electric blues can roll a little harder with some real fireworks. He’s a stud on guitar who can really style that groove but also rise up and shred like a boss.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
Further distinguishing him is that he also plays lap steel. Perhaps his most defining aspect, it’s an attack that gives his music some extra swamp and bite. More than any other, it’s a side of his that I could listen to all night long.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
On top of all that is a voice that manages to be at once smooth and rugged. Taken together, it’s a far-ranging sound that can go from the country to the roadhouse to the city.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
This mid-week Orlando show was a rather full house so it’s not like he’s toiling in obscurity or anything, thankfully. But Birchwood is a homegrown treasure that certainly deserves more discovery.

Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo
Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blue Bamboo

Follow Bao on Twitter (@baolehuu)
Email Bao: baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

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