REVIEWS

Selwyn Birhcwood - Pick Your Poison

Pick your Poison is Selwyn Birchwood's follow-up to his Alligator 2014 debut Don't Call No Ambulance and advances his march to owning the new blues blues world. Lots of blues musicians and bands record and release CDs of blues music that sounds as though it could have been composed and recorded forty years ago. The stranglehold of B.B. King, Muddy Waters and early Eric Clapton has on contemporary blues defys imagination, but wait! - here's Selwyn who is boldly deconstructing and rebuilding the blues in a laboratory of his own making.

Selwyn won the Albert King Award (and a Gibson ES-335) for best guitarist at the International Blues Challenge in 2013 and has been criss-crossing the country since then, packing houses and ripping up a storm. He play guitar and lap steel and wrote and produced all of the 13 songs on Pick Your Poison.

The band is a quartet with Regi Oliver on saxaphone, Curtis Nutall on drums and Huff Wright on bass. Collectively there's a lot of jazz in their blood and it seeps through the blues with interesting changes and complex parts - especially when playing live - at moments you might mistake them for careening through sections of "prog-rock" landing absurdly safely again on the bedrock of the blues. Selwyn has complete mastery of his instruments (both guitar and lap steel) constantly surprising you with phrasing that challenges the listener more than any good Friday-night-blues-bar-band headlining band. Selwyn has a wonderfully unique and expressive voice when singing, and his lyrics reveal his sense of humor and charm.

Pick Your Poison opens with Trial By Fire which kicks off the proceedings with a flute - the title track includes a touch of reggae which is quickly subsumed by the horns. Police State features Selwyn on slide. Heavy Heart will appeal to the slow blues fans. My favorite track is Even the Saved Need Saving -because even the dull journalist needs to dance when they should be seated at their desk writing. If you actually like any music - let alone the blues - you'll love this album!  

www.selwynbirchwood.com

— Conrad Warre

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