Living In A Burning House
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
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
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