Selwyn Birchwood & Mitch Woods

The Funky Biscuit Presents

Selwyn Birchwood & Mitch Woods

Friday January 26, 2018

9:00 pm

The Funky Biscuit

Boca Raton, FL

$15.00 - $30.00 General Admission $20.00 Day Of Show

Selwyn Birchwood
Selwyn Birchwood
With his fiery guitar and lap steel playing, his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs and gritty, unvarnished vocals, Selwyn Birchwood is among the most extraordinary young stars in the blues. His deep familiarity with blues tradition allows him to bust the genre wide open, adding new sounds, colors and textures, all delivered with a revival tent preacher's fervor and a natural storyteller's charisma. Since the 2014 release of his Alligator Records debut, Don't Call No Ambulance, Birchwood's meteoric rise from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages is nothing short of phenomenal, as he continues to set the contemporary blues world on fire. The album received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics' Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014, and he won the 2015 Blues Blast Rising Star Award. Selwyn and his band have crisscrossed the U.S. and Europe repeatedly, delivering unforgettable live performances. With his new album, Pick Your Poison, Birchwood, along with his band—saxophonist Regi Oliver, bassist Huff Wright and drummer Courtney "Big Love" Girlie—takes a major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.

Birchwood, who attacks his guitar and lap steel with searing intensity, wrote and produced all 13 songs on Pick Your Poison. His richly detailed, hard-hitting originals run the emotional gamut from the humorously personal "My Whiskey Loves My Ex" to the gospel-inflected "Even The Saved Need Saving" to the hard truths of the topical "Corporate Drone" and "Police State" to the existential choice of the title track. The cutting-edge songs are made all the more impactful by Birchwood's gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his band's seemingly telepathic accompaniment. "I write and sing what I know," says Birchwood, whose innovations are as expansive as his influences. "This album has a broad reach. It's for young, old and everyone in between."

According to Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer, who signed Birchwood to the label shortly after the bluesman won the 2013 International Blues Challenge and also the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award at the same event, "Selwyn writes smart, infectious, fresh songs and delivers them with a warm, conversational vocal style and a fun-loving attitude. He's a killer guitarist, switching between a regular six-string and lap steel. Live, he's a ball of energy, interacting with the audience like they were in his living room."

Birchwood's high-octane blues—at once deeply rooted, funky and up-to-the-minute—are played with passion and honest emotion. With his band feeding off his drive and exuberance, the striking 6'3" young man with his trademark Afro roams the stage (often barefoot), ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease, his soulful, rocks-and-gravel vocals firing up the crowd. His ability to win over an audience—any audience—is proven night after night on the bandstand. With his warm, magnetic personality, Birchwood is as down-to-earth as his music is fun, thought-provoking and vital. His mission is to spread his music far and wide, to share his joy, to play his heart out, and to push the blues into the future. "There's nothing I'd rather be doing than playing the blues," he says. "And I try to convey that with every song and with every performance."

Birchwood, his father from Tobago, his mother from the UK, was born in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s didn't move him, and he quickly grew bored. And then he heard Jimi Hendrix. "He was larger than life. What he did was mind-blowing. When I realized Hendrix was influenced by the blues, I found my path," he says. By 17, he was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy. As luck would have it, just as Birchwood was discovering Guy, the blues master had a concert scheduled in Orlando. Birchwood was there, front and center. "I was floored," he recalls. "I completely connected with the blues. I knew I had to make this music."

As Selwyn's guitar proficiency grew, a friend told him that his neighbor was a blues guitarist and had a band. The 19-year-old Selwyn went over to check it out and jam. The guitar-playing neighbor turned out to be the Texas-born blues legend Sonny Rhodes, who was instantly impressed with the enthusiastic young guitar slinger. Within one month's time, Rhodes asked Birchwood to pack his bags and join him on the road. It was an incredible experience for Birchwood, as Rhodes took the young man under his wing, teaching him not only guitar and lap steel, but also how to conduct business, how to run a band, and how to reach an audience. "Sonny always said, 'Play what's in your heart.' I've never lost sight of that," says Birchwood.

Rhodes insisted Birchwood go to college and always held the guitar spot in his band open for Selwyn whenever he was available. It was a win-win situation, as Birchwood—through hard work and scholarships—received his MBA from The University of Tampa. "I challenged myself to get that degree," Birchwood says. "These days, it's not good enough to just be a good player." Combining the musical lessons learned from Rhodes and his business acumen, Birchwood created The Selwyn Birchwood Band in 2010, featuring veteran musicians older than Selwyn, testifying to Selwyn's musical chops and his leadership skills. On stage, they play off each other with ease, feeding off each other's energy, sharing the fun with the audience.

In 2011 the self-released FL Boy helped the band land gigs outside of their Tampa base, where they were becoming local heroes. Birchwood and his band won their way to spots at the 2012 and 2013 International Blues Challenges in Memphis. After taking ninth place in 2012, they came back determined the next year, taking first place. Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer was sitting at the judges' table at the time. "I saw Selwyn's potential in 2012. He absolutely deserved to win in 2013," he says. The victory opened more doors for Birchwood, increased his exposure and helped the band land a deal with Intrepid Artists booking agency, which led to more and better gigs.

With his 2014 Alligator Records debut album, Don't Call No Ambulance, Selwyn Birchwood announced his arrival on the international blues stage. The album is a fully realized vision of contemporary blues. Between his uninhibited sense of fun and adventure and his serious-as-a-heart-attack musicianship, Don't Call No Ambulance opened a door into a bright future for the blues. Rave reviews ran in publications from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal, from The Chicago Tribune to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The Selwyn Birchwood Band has been touring non-stop since before the Alligator debut came out. The band has performed at festivals including The Chicago Blues Festival, The 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 Cruise. Internationally, they have performed at The Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, Jazz a Vienne in France, the Rawa Blues Festival in Poland, the Moulin Blues Festival in The Netherlands, the Ottawa Blues Festival in Canada, as well as performing in Spain, Switzerland, Norway, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Belgium and Mexico.

Birchwood has opened for major blues stars including Robert Cray and Buddy Guy and has shared the stage with another friend and teacher, Joe Louis Walker. Not long ago, Selwyn had the opportunity, when performing in San Francisco, to bring his friend and mentor Sonny Rhodes on stage to sit in with his band. It was a moment Birchwood will never forget. "He did so much for me; it was a real honor to return the favor."

With Pick Your Poison's urgent, uncompromising music, Selwyn Birchwood is forging new directions for the blues. The Washington Post calls him a "tough, indelibly modern next generation bluesman." The Wall Street Journal says he is "fiery and original." The hard-hitting, cutting-edge songs on Pick Your Poison, along with his incendiary live performances, prove without a doubt his status as the blues' most sensational young talent.

"A powerhouse player and emotive performer…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

"Selwyn Birchwood is an indelibly modern and original next-generation bluesman; his tough vocals, guitar and lap steel touch on classic Chicago blues, Southern soul and boogie." --Washington Post

"Watch out for Selwyn Birchwood…a genius revelation and a pleasure. Roaring Fender Strat and down-south lap steel guitar." --Blues Matters

"Selwyn Birchwood is making waves, surprising people and defying expectations. Be on the lookout. He revels in the unexpected." --Living Blues
Mitch Woods
Mitch Woods
Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s have been the torchbearers of a great American blues musical heritage, not for three years but three decades. Taking their inspiration from the great jump n’ boogie outfits of the late 40s and early 50s, they breathe fresh life into the music that gave birth to rock n’roll. Woods styled his group after the jumpin’ n’ jivin’, shoutin’ n’ honkin’, pumpin’ n’ poundin’ bands of Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, Joe and Jimmy Liggins, Amos Milburn, and Roy Milton. Adding a healthy dose of New Orleans rhythm and blues, piledrivin’ piano, and some of his own contemporary playful lyrics, Woods and His Rocket 88s forge their own brand of music they call “rock-a-boogie.”

Born in Brooklyn in 1951, Mitch Woods began playing classical piano at eleven, but his real initiation into blues and boogie piano had already been assured at age eight. “My mom would hire this superintendent of the building, a black man, Mr. Brown, to take me to school, and we stopped off at his cousin’s house, where somebody was playing boogie-woogie piano. It really hit me.”

Woods was putting together bands in Greenwich Village by his mid-teens. By the time he entered the University of Buffalo, Woods was sitting in at local clubs and discovering records by boogie-woogie pioneers Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, and Pete Johnson. Woods came to San Francisco in 1970, and for the next five years performed as Mitch Woods and His Red Hot Mama (with singer Gracie Glassman). One night Oakland guitarist Hi Tide Harris heard Woods opening for Charlie Musselwhite and was reminded of the sound and theatrics of early R&B pioneer Louis Jordan. Indeed, Jordan has always been a primary influence on Woods. “I actually did see Louie Jordan in Oakland. He was the bridge between swing and rock and roll. He would do a five or six piece band, get a lot of power out of that.”

That kind of power was to become rallying cry for Mitch’s next project, Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s, which started in 1980 and quickly rose to the top of the Northern California club circuit. Their first album, Steady Date (Blind Pig Records) got hot reviews in 1984 and led to appearances at two San Francisco Blues Festivals, openings for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Blasters, The Neville Brothers, and James Brown. By 1987, Woods was doing a six-country Europe tour highlighted by a rousing performance at the Belgium Rhythm and Blues Festival.

In 1988, the 88s released Mr. Boogie’s Back In Town (Blind Pig Records) and music pundits started to acknowledge Woods’ place in the ranks of American music: “Woods lays down an authentic 50s-vintage rock piano groove, comparable in power and rhythmic nuance to classic recordings by the young Jerry Lee Lewis,” said Keyboard Magazine.

On 1991 album Solid Gold Cadillac, Woods and his band were joined by Ronnie Earl, Charlie Musselwhite and the Roomful of Blues Horns. Woods himself was starting to become a guest star, appearing on that year’s new releases by John Lee Hooker and John Hammond, and the boogie pianist headlined both the Amsterdam Blues Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Woods was developing his passion for band leading and discovering the power of being a strong singer. “I’ll always consider myself a piano player, but my voice has developed over the last few years. It’s an incredible release, when you can sing, it’s like blowing an axe, and it’s great to entertain an audience,” he says. Another interest was taking hold, too – the funky piano-driven music of New Orleans. Woods had long been infatuated with the music of the Big Easy. “I’m a boogie woogie and blues piano player for the most part, but I also incorporate other styles within that, like the New Orleans influence. New Orleans R&B piano playing, like Dr. John, of course Professor Longhair. “New Orleans has been a really great source of inspiration, it’s a piano town. New Orleans reveres the piano player. People respect me and I appreciate that. I’ve always been able to feel a real sense of music there; if you’re a good player, you get in. For the past 25 years it has become my second home, ” Woods says. “I’ve gotten to play with all the great players who live there, and I just hire them, guys from Fats Domino’s band, like Red Tyler, sax player, Johnny Vidakovich, drummer with the Professor, and George Porter on bass.

Woods toured constantly in the mid-1990s, stopping long enough to put out Shakin’ the Shack (Blind Pig Records) in 1998. Woodswrote all but one song, demonstrating how well he’s absorbed the conventions of blues and boogie woogie music, further proving his ability to inject new life into these vintage forms. Woods also realized another dream in 1998 when he brought together some of the surviving kings of the American blues legacy, like John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Johnnie Johnson, Earl King and Lee Allen, to make Keeper Of The Flame (Lightyear/WEA Records), all paired with Woods in a wonderful run of classic tunes.

Jump For Joy, Mitch’s fifth release for Blind Pig Records continues Woods’ spin down the boogie road. He had always followed the boogie greats like Louie Jordan and Louie Prima, but Jump For Joy keyed off a new influence. “I started to listen to Cab Calloway, and this new one has lots of Cab influence; six horns, eleven-piece band with doubled horn lines. He (Calloway) had a great entertainment style, very similar to Louie Jordan’s, and that’s what we’ve gone for here,” he says. Woods says Jump For Joy will unite all factions in the dress-up-and-boogie scene. “Aside from the blues audience, we’ve been developing the whole swing crowd, so this will appeal to the swing dancers as well as the blues lovers.” On Jump For Joy, Mitch Woods has gone the limit, writing sassy boogie tunes and crafting smooth arrangements that evoke the heyday of the dancehall Forties.

On his CD/DVD project, Big Easy Boogie, Mitch brings together the inner circle of Rock’n’ Roll royalty. Featuring some of New Orleans’ legends including original members of the Fats Domino band, Herb Hardesty and the Blue Monday Horns, and Jimmy Moliere on guitar, the sound is true to the roots New Orleans R&B. It is vintage rock’n’roll and boogie inspired by New Orleans piano greats Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, and Little Richard, performed in Mitch’s joyous entertaining style that makes you feel like you are not only in the audience but on stage with him having a ball! Whether it is a pounding piano pumper, a Mardi Gras mambo, or a moody late night blues with cascading piano and sultry sax, Mitch Woods’ Big Easy Boogie will delight all lovers of New Orleans music.

After spending more than twenty five years soaking up the New Orleans sound and performing with many of the Crescent City’s musical elite, Mitch has finally realized his dream of recording his latest project with the founding fathers of New Orleans R&B including Earl Palmer, Dave Bartholomew, and Herb Hardesty. Woods reunited the surviving members of Fats Domino’s original band, played a live show in New Orleans during the Jazz & Heritage Festival, took them into the studio, and filmed the whole shebang. The results are plenty of good-time, rock’n’roll boogie, played by the originators of the style, fronted by one of their star pupils. The CD/DVD, Big Easy Boogie is available worldwide on Club 88 Records. It has been garnering airplay on all the major satellite and cable radio stations, including XM (#3 on picks to click-Bluesville), Sirius, Music Choice, as well as BBC 2 and blues programs worldwide.
Venue Information:
The Funky Biscuit
303 SE Mizner Blvd
Royal Palm Place
Boca Raton, FL, 33432