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Interview:
Selwyn Birchwood is one to watch -- and to hear, as soon as possible
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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After winning the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge and the Albert King Guitarist of the Year Award in 2013, Selwyn Birchwood was hailed as the scene's hot newcomer.

Except he wasn't all that new.

The 29-year-old Birchwood -- an Orlando, Fla., native who plays this weekend at HopCat Detroit's Huma Room -- has actually been kicking around for quite some time. A blues disciple since hearing Jimi Hendrix and tracing his musical roots for himself, Birchwood was fully converted at a Buddy Guy concert in Orlando when he was 18 and within a year was touring the country with guitarist Sonny Rhodes.

"I was touring all over Florida with my own band, too," notes Birchwood, who released his first national album, "Don't Call No Ambulance," in 2014. "And I toured all over the U.S. and Canada with Sonny Rhodes, so I had a lot of experience.

"My whole band`s that way. Regi (Oliver) and Huff (Donald Wright) toured all over the place with Lucky Peterson. The drummer (Curtis Nutall) had toured all over with Joe Louis Walker and a lot of other group. So this isn't something we're new to; it's just a new configuration to other people who haven't heard us yet."

The troupe's IBC win and the album's release -- and nomination for Best New Artist Album at the 36th Blues Music Awards this May in Memphis -- is certainly making sure people are hearing Birchwood and his crew, however. "Yeah, ever since then we're kind of on an upward slant," the guitarist says. "It all seems to be increasing exponentially; we're getting a lot of work and touring nonstop. It just seems like it's building and building so we're trying to keep the ball rolling."

Meanwhile, Birchwood and the band are starting to think about what to do next. "Don't Call No Ambulance" was actually ready to roll in 2013 but was held up while he negotiated his deal with Chicago-based Alligator Records. So he's juggling the present while chomping at the bit to start rolling towards the future.

"We're already writing for the next album," Birchwood says. " 'Don't Call No Ambulance' was our third with all-original tunes, and we're looking to make the second Alligator album all originals as well. Right now the focus is just on writing songs."

Selwyn Birchwood

8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.

The Huma Room at HopCat Detroit, 4265 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $12.

Call 313-769-8828 or visit www.hopcat.com.

Web Site: www.hopcat.com

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