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February 2021
 

Selwyn Birchwood
Living In A Burning House
Alligator Records

Selwyn Birchwood

It's no secret that I am a big, big fan of the music of Selwyn Birchwood, and have been so since I heard his first Alligator album. I've proclaimed on my new Blues Bytes Radio show that one of my goals is "to make this dude famous." I've seen him live two times, and at both shows was blown away by how good of a performer he is. 

But enough of my fanboy rants, let's talk about Birchwood's latest CD, Living In A Burning House, his third release on Alligator. It easily stands up to his earlier albums and is a worthy addition to the Selwyn Birchwood discography.

The album opens with Birchwood laying down some biting blues guitar solos on "I'd Climb Mountains," as he sings about everything he'd do to get to his woman, and closes with a mellow acoustic ballad, "My Happy Place." In between, there is so much good music from Birchwood.

For my money, the title cut, "Living In A Burning House," is the tops here, not surprising that Alligator chose this one for their pre-release promo sampler. The song starts with a back beat before Birchwood sings about a broken relationship that he can't find the strength to leave, and he contributes multiple strong guitar solos. Regi Oliver also comes in with a very nice baritone sax solo. Another keeper is the mid-tempo, loping blues shuffle, "She's a Dime," with Birchwood singing about that special woman who has him hypnotized. Oliver returns with more fine sax playing.

Birchwood displays intricate fretwork on his guitar on the slow blues ballad, "One More Time," with his vocals taking on a tortured feeling. Houston singer Diunna Greenleaf shares vocals with Birchwood on "Mama Knows Best," forcibly telling him that the woman he brought home isn't right for him because mama can see what the man in love can't see.

The highlight of every Birchwood live show is when he sits in a chair and pulls out his lap steel and slide, and here he demonstrates his mastery of this particular stringed instrument on "Freaks Come Out at Night." The slide also gets heavy use on the funky slow blues, "Rock Bottom" and also on the up-tempo "I Got Drunk Laid And Stoned," with his guitar playing here getting a little pyschedelic at times.

Birchwood demonstrates some of his best guitar playing on the rollicking, up-tempo "You Can't Steal My Shine," a number with a bit of a country gospel revival feeling to it and with some hot wah-wah effects on guitar. It's a real foot-tapper, as Birchwood confidently sings, "...you can take my watch, I already know what time it is, you can take my job 'cause I ain't got no benefits, you can steal my bed because I'm already woke, you can steal my wife and I'll wish the best to you both ... but you can't steal my shine..." This is a man with the utmost confidence.

All 13 cuts on Living In A Burning House are Birchwood originals, with his songwriting skills perhaps as impressive as his playing and singing. Selwyn Birchwood is one of the best contemporary artists on the scene today, so if you're not yet on his bandwagon let me know so I can save you a seat.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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