Explodes with fresh, inspired takes on lowdown juke joint romps, gut-wrenching blues, tear-jerking soul and modern blues rock. Birchwood’s raw, urgent vocals and sparkling guitar and lap steel playing drive the music, and the songs are simultaneously fun and thought-provoking. "Don’t Call No Ambulance (is) the remarkable debut album by young guitarist/singer Birchwood… a damn fine listen through and through. (He is) a powerhouse player and emotive performer whose work respects blues tradition but could not be more contemporary. His band, his material, and both his skilled guitaring and soulful vocals are the essence of fully-formed; Birchwood is a major player…. Highly recommended" – Rolling Stone
All songs by Selwyn Birchwood, Selwyn Birchwood Music, BMI
Selwyn Birchwood Guitar, Lap Steel, Vocals Regi Oliver Baritone Saxophone, ...
All songs by Selwyn Birchwood, Selwyn Birchwood Music, BMI
Selwyn Birchwood Guitar, Lap Steel, Vocals Regi Oliver Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute Donald “Huff” Wright Bass Curtis Nutall Drums
with Joe Louis Walker Slide Guitar on “The River Turned Red” Josh Nelms Rhythm Guitar on “Addicted” RJ Harman Harmonica on “Overworked And Underpaid” Dash Dixon Keyboard on “Brown Paper Bag”
Produced by Selwyn Birchwood Recorded by David Plakon at North Avenue Studios, Orange City, FL Additional recording by John Wesley at Red Room Recorders, Tampa, FL Mixed by Blaise Barton at Joyride Studios, Chicago, IL Mastered by Collin Jordan and Bruce Iglauer at The Boiler Room, Chicago, IL Executive Producer: Bruce Iglauer Photos by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Band photo by Joe Perez Packaging design by Kevin Niemiec Alligator logo by Michael Trossman
Picture this—It’s the early 2000’s, and kids fill the parking lot of a Florida high school. Their car radios blast whatever is new and popular from sugary pop to hip-hop. Then a teenage Selwyn Birchwood pulls up, windows down, and Muddy Waters spills out. His friends make faces and ask him, bewildered, “What is that?” Even then, Selwyn wasn’t afraid to be different. But he’s always done things a little differently from everyone else. At 29 years old and based in Tampa, he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a typical bluesman. He may be young, but he’s got experience, grit, and authenticity. He’s brimming with youthful energy and enthusiasm, but he’s also serious about his craft, wise beyond his years, and already has a decade tearing up stages under his belt.
So where did this guy—bursting onto the blues scene, making waves and defying expectations—come from?
Selwyn was born in Orlando, Florida and raised by his mother. She encouraged his creativity, but music—particularly the blues—was something he had to seek out on his own. He began playing the guitar when he was 12, and after growing tired of mainstream fare on the radio, he went looking for something different. At age 17, he found Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was unlike anything he had ever heard. “I became adamant about finding out where he got those ideas and sounds,” Selwyn remembers. He delved into Hendrix’s background and one of the names he stumbled on was Buddy Guy, who happened to be playing in his town. Selwyn walked blindly into the show, not knowing what to expect. Buddy’s music struck him like a lightning bolt; “Just to hear someone sing and play with that much raw emotion...it affected me so greatly. Three days afterwards I’d still wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Well, damn!’” Selwyn realized the blues was what he wanted to play for the rest of his life.
Then, at 19, Selwyn had a chance encounter with Texas-born veteran bluesman Sonny Rhodes. Rhodes was struck by young Selwyn’s skill and eagerness and offered him his first professional gig. Selwyn toured with Sonny off and on for four years, during his summer breaks from college. From Rhodes, Selwyn learned to channel his deep feeling for the blues into his music, and also how to survive in the business of being a touring musician. Rhodes also inspired him to pick up the lap steel guitar. Rhodes became one of Selwyn’s biggest musical influences, along with other favorites like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and, of course, Buddy Guy.
After playing with various sidemen in Orlando, Selwyn moved to Tampa in 2011 and formed the current Selwyn Birchwood Band. Two years later, they took home the top honors at the prestigious International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee, beating out 125 bands from all over the country. The win opened a lot of valuable doors for them. They have since established a solid, growing fan base in the Southeast, gone on a major national tour, and played festivals like the great King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas. They even headlined at Buddy Guy’s Chicago club, Legends.
Don’t Call No Ambulance captures the thrill of Selwyn’s live shows. On stage, Selwyn is spontaneous and riveting, interacting with the audience, and making you feel like he’s playing just for you. On record, he takes listeners for the same kind of ride, embracing an eclectic mix of sounds and styles: ballads, traditional blues, funk and rootsy, swampy rock. His band has a unique configuration: electric and lap steel guitar, drums, bass and baritone sax, plus Selwyn’s voice, a voice that could stand up to the greats. He features his sax player, Regi Oliver, heavily throughout the record. He loves to let his band shine: “I know it’s me on the front of the album, but I like to showcase my guys as much as I can.”
All of the songs on the record are steeped in personal meaning. “It’s hard for me to write a song unless I feel it has some real substance to it.” His subject matter veers from dancing and partying to heavier topics like lost love and suicide. He doesn’t like to think of any of the material as dark, just thought-provoking. Selwyn embraces the classic blues spirit, but interprets blues through a modern lens. He recalls the greats of the past, but with a style that is fresh, exciting, and all his own. That’s what makes him worth getting to know, and what makes him so important to the genre. Soon everyone will know the Selwyn Birchwood story. Just remember you read it here first.
–Camilla Ann Aikin Camilla Ann Aikin is a regular contributor to Living Blues magazine
SELWYN WOULD LIKE TO THANK: Thank you to God for giving the band and me the tools and opportunity to pursue our dreams in music. Thank you to Regi Oliver, Huff Wright, and Curtis Nutall for all of their hard work and sacrifice on the road and in the studio throughout this journey so far. Thank you to my family who have always encouraged me to follow my passion for music. Thank you to all of our fans who have continuously showed up with so much enthusiasm and supported us over the years. The band would also like to thank Bruce Iglauer and the team at Alligator Records, Joe Louis Walker, The Blues Foundation, Intrepid Artists, Suncoast Blues Society, 88.5 WMNF, RJ Harman, Josh Nelms and Betty Fox for their great contributions to the album. THANK YOU!