Review: Fiery Florida Guitarist Selwyn Birchwood Unleashes Another Torrent of Electric Swamp Funkin’ Blues

Selwyn birch wood
Exorcist
(Alligator)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

American Songwriter Videos

No need to wonder what kind of roots-based music Selwyn Birchwood plays. He describes it to us as "Electric Swamp Funkin' Blues." That distinctive enthusiasm continues on this, his fourth album for the celebrated Alligator label, and his sixth overall.

The Florida born and raised guitarist, one of the few in his profession with an MBA, produces thirteen more songs, nailing that rugged, eclectic groove. Grammy Award-winning producer Tom Hambridge returns from the Birchwoods' previous album, keeping the mix solid and organic on the hour-long 13-track collection.

This time, Hambridge and the guitarist invite an expressive trio of gospel-inspired backing vocalists. They bring church to church with the slow bluesy "Plenty More to Be Thankful For," the slinky, Bible-inspired "Lazarus," and the slow, screeching funk of the mosquito-infested tale of a criminal who meets a violent end courtesy of a testy . alligators in “Swim at your own risk”. The latter showcases Birchwood's skill on lap steel, learned from one of his mentors, legendary bluesman Sonny Rhodes.

The focus shifts to jump blues for the swinging "Call Me What You Want," an outing that pushes her boundaries even further. Baritone sax and longtime band member Regi Oliver (he also overdubbed himself as tenor, becoming a mini-horn section) shines on the somewhat ominous and forceful title track. Here Birchwood goes into Dr. John's swamp-heavy "gris-gris" mode singing about using an exorcist to remove the demons that cursed him with you no longer have magic with me.

The guitarist gets humorous with the cheeky shuffle “ILa View” (a verbal spin on “I love you”) playing bottleneck acoustic while singing. I love you like the church loves money... like a rasta loves marijuana. For the greasy funk of "Underdog," says Birchwood I work twice as hard to get half as far underlying the vibe with a single fade. The sound gets a bit busy, conflicting with her singing until she unleashes for a searing, soulful solo. Things get political in "Florida Man," a scathing look at some residents of his home state. Here Birchwood delves into the harsh territory of Southside soul Johnny singing Where the rebel flag meets Mickey Mouse... Florida Man gets drunk and shoots hurricanes while her lap of steel screams.

Closing instrumental "Show Tune" takes a stab at Otis Redding's Stax soul, complete with cowbell, ending with a flourish. Considering this is Birchwood's fourth album, all originals, in less than a decade, he continues his streak as one of this country's most prolific and talented musicians, singers and songwriters in an inimitable genre of "electric swamp funkin' blues". has

Courtesy of Alligator Records

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