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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Showing posts with label Selwyn Birchwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Selwyn Birchwood. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2016



Alligator Records has set a June 10, 2016 release date for the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection. The 2CDs-for-the-price-of-one set -- boasting over 148 minutes of music -- features career-defining performances from blues royalty past, present and future.
The blues and roots music Alligator Records has been releasing since 1971 -- created by iconic giants of the genre like Hound Dog Taylor, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Luther Allison, James Cotton, Elvin Bishop and Mavis Staples, and label-nurtured legends including Son Seals, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Saffire—The Uppity Blues Women and Michael “Iron Man” Burks -- has more than stood the test of time. With the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection, label founder and president Bruce Iglauer, along with his 15-person staff (many of whom have been on board for well over 20 years) celebrate Alligator’s extraordinary past, history-in-the-making present, and a future filled with more "Genuine Houserockin’ Music."

The Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection clearly lays out Alligator’s wide-ranging, forward-looking vision with tracks from newer voices – Selwyn Birchwood, Toronzo Cannon, Shemekia Copeland, Moreland & Arbuckle and Jarekus Singleton – seamlessly programmed next to legendary artists including Curtis Salgado, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Joe Louis Walker, Delbert McClinton, Anders Osborne, The Holmes Brothers, Guitar Shorty, JJ Grey & Mofro, Ann Rabson and Roomful Of Blues. Together, the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection presents a comprehensive portrait of this singular, rooted, soul-stirring American music.

On June 10, the day of the album's release, the City Of Chicago will celebrate the label's 45th anniversary during the 33rd Annual Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park. Alligator artists scheduled to perform are Shemekia Copeland, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Curtis Salgado, Toronzo Cannon, Moreland & Arbuckle, Corky Siegel and Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater.
The history of Alligator Records, founded by blues-bitten Bruce Iglauer in 1971 for the express purpose of releasing an album by Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers, reads like a history of contemporary blues and roots music. Iglauer, a native of Cincinnati, first fell in love with the blues in 1966. A live performance by the great Mississippi Fred McDowell struck him deep inside. "It was as if he reached out and grabbed me by the collar, shook me and spoke directly to me," he recalls. After that show, Iglauer, a student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, immersed himself in the blues. In 1968, he made his initial pilgrimage to experience Chicago's thriving blues scene. His first stop was the famous Jazz Record Mart, where he met proprietor Bob Koester, also the owner of the prestigious blues and jazz label Delmark Records. With Koester as his de facto guide, Iglauer began making regular visits to Chicago to see Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, J.B. Hutto, Carey Bell and many other stars in the ghetto blues clubs.

Koester was impressed with Iglauer's passion for the music and his promotion of two sold-out Luther Allison performances at Lawrence. When Iglauer moved to Chicago for good at the beginning of 1970, Koester hired him as a $30-per-week shipping clerk. Almost every night, Iglauer hung out in the funky South and West Side bars, spellbound by the blues men and women performing on their home turf. He accompanied Koester to the studio for every Delmark session, where he watched blues greats such as Junior Wells, Roosevelt Sykes and Robert Lockwood, Jr. create classic blues albums. Iglauer wanted Delmark to release an album by his favorite band, Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers. But Koester wasn’t interested, so Iglauer gathered up what little money he had and decided to do it himself, soaking up everything he could learn about record production before heading into the studio with Hound Dog in 1971.

Iglauer became producer, booking agent, business manager, roadie, promotion man and publicist for Hound Dog. He ran Alligator out of his tiny apartment, filled with stacks of record cartons and a shipping table next to the bed. For years, each record had to finance the next one, which meant Alligator released about one record a year. Luckily, those records continued to impress fans and critics and sell enough to keep the label going. Albums by Big Walter Horton, Son Seals and Fenton Robinson all contributed to getting the fledgling company off the ground. When Koko Taylor came aboard in 1975, the label was taking larger steps, soon attracting giants like Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan and Johnny Winter.

Now, Alligator Records is the largest independent blues label in the world, and has been repeatedly honored for its achievements. Three Alligator recordings have won Grammy Awards, and 41 titles have been nominated. The label and its artists have received well over 100 Blues Music Awards and more than 70 Living Blues Awards. But even with all of the accolades, Alligator Records never rests on its laurels. According to Iglauer, "Alligator should be the label that's exposing the next generation of blues artists and bringing their music to the next generation of blues fans. I want the future of the blues and the future of Alligator Records to be one and the same. I want to keep bringing blues and roots music to new fans and getting them as excited about the music as I am." With those goals, Alligator Records is still fueled by the same principles that it first established in 1971. The staff continues to push forward, still bucking the odds, with everybody working long hours on a shoestring budget.

Throughout its history, Alligator has operated not only as a business, but also as a tight-knit family. Relationships between the staff and the artists are personal and run deep. It's not at all uncommon for an artist performing a Chicago show to drop by the office for an unannounced visit. Musicians regularly call Iglauer at any hour, looking to have CDs shipped out at the last minute, or to discuss their upcoming recording sessions or sing new tunes over the phone. Iglauer has opened his house to musicians needing a place to live during times of personal trouble.

From the early days of recording only Chicago talent, to attracting national and international musicians, to the label's commitment to nurturing the next generation of blues artists, Alligator continues to break new ground. Now, as clearly proven by the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection, the label is still dedicated to recording and promoting great talent, confirming that the passion, energy and soul-healing power of Alligator’s music is strong, genuine, and capable of rocking the house with no end in sight.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Six Alligator Artists Win LIVING BLUES Awards


Living Blues magazine has announced the recipients of the 2015 Living Blues Awards. Six Alligator Records artists received a total of six awards. In the Critics' Poll, James Cotton won Most Outstanding Musician (Harmonica), Joe Louis Walker won Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) and Selwyn Birchwood won for Best Blues Album of 2014 (New Recording/Best Debut) for Don't Call No Ambulance. In the Readers' Poll, Shemekia Copeland (whose new CD Outskirts Of Love will be released on September 11) received the award for Blues Artist Of The Year (Female). Marcia Ball won for Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) and Elvin Bishop won Best Blues Album Of 2014 (New Release) for his Grammy-nominated Can't Even Do Wrong Right.


Best Blues Album Of 2014 (New Recording/Best Debut):
Don't Call No Ambulance

Most Outstanding Musician (Harmonica)

Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar)

Blues Artist Of The Year (Female)

Best Blues Album Of 2014 (New Release):
Can't Even Do Wrong Right
Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Three Alligator Artists Receive Five Blues Music Awards

Elvin Bishop Leads All Artists -- Wins Album, Song And Band Of The Year

Newcomer Selwyn Birchwood Wins Best New Artist Album Of The Year

Marcia Ball Wins Piano Player Of The Year -- The 10th BMA Of Her Career

On Thursday, May 7, 2015, The Blues Foundation announced the winners of the 2015 Blues Music Awards, the blues world's highest honors. Blues legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Elvin Bishop led all artists with three awards. His Grammy-nominated 2014 release Can't Even Do Wrong Right won Album Of The Year and the title track won Song Of The Year. The Elvin Bishop Band took the award for Band Of The Year. Bishop had been nominated eight previous times but hadn't won until now. On Monday, May 11, Bishop will appear on TBS' CONAN, sitting in with Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band.

Newcomer Selwyn Birchwood -- winner of the 2013 International Blues Challenge -- received the award for Best New Artist Album Of The Year for his breakout Alligator debut, Don't Call No Ambulance. This is Birchwood's first nomination and first win.

Austin piano queen Marcia Ball won the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year Award. This is Ball's 10th career Blues Music Award. She has received a total of 44 nominations.

The 36th Annual Blues Music Awards were presented in Memphis on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at the Cook Convention Center.

Alligator artists and awards are as follows:

Album Of The Year - Can't Even Do Wrong Right
Song Of The Year - Can't Even Do Wrong Right (written by Elvin Bishop)
Band Of The Year - The Elvin Bishop Band

Best New Artist Album Of The Year - Don't Call No Ambulance

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year

Friday, June 27, 2014

Selwyn Birchwood's "Don't Call No Ambulance" Receives Rave Rolling Stone Review


Don't Call No Ambulance, the Alligator Records debut from young guitarist/vocalist Selwyn Birchwood, received a rave review from writer Dave DiMartino at

Selwyn Birchwood: Don’t Call No Ambulance (Alligator)
"Recently issued by the distinguished blues label Alligator and garnering repeated plays in this household is the remarkable debut album by young guitarist/singer Birchwood--a powerhouse player and emotive performer whose work respects blues tradition but could not be more contemporary. From Orlando, Florida, Birchwood made an early ally of Texas bluesman Sonny Rhodes and at 29 has already made his name onstage opening for artists like Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. His band, his material, and both his skilled guitaring and soulful vocals are the essence of fully-formed; Birchwood is a major player, the sort of artist that assures his blues-devoted label many more years of prominence to come, and most importantly, a damn fine listen through and through. Highly recommended."

Since the June 10 release of Don't Call No Ambulance, Birchwood, the winner of the 2013 International Blues Challenge, has been wowing club and festival audiences and garnering piles of critical praise. He was recently featured, along with Alligator's other young signing Jarekus Singleton, in a major Washington Post feature story. The two were heralded as leading forces in a new wave of blues for a new generation of listeners.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise #22 - Stilladog Rides Again

This was my fifth Blues Cruise and this marks the third review of the LRBC I’ve done for Bman’s Blues Report.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve become a well-seasoned cruiser by now, or if it’s because I had some close friends join me on this cruise, or if the music was any better, or if the islands were more friendly, but this was the best Blues Cruise yet for me!

If you haven’t heard me say it before, I’ll start off with these words of wisdom.  A Blues Cruise vacation is exactly what you make it. You don’t even have to be a fan of blues music to have the time of your life, but it helps!  You can listen to as much music as you want starting as early as 10:30AM and going non-stop somewhere on the ship until 6:00AM.  One night I wandered into the Crows Nest at 5:00AM and listened to JP Soars jam until 5:30AM when they finally called it a night… except for one thing, it was already 6:30AM because we had crossed from the Eastern time zone to the Atlantic time zone at 2 o’clock.

So what I’m saying is you can’t possibly see it all. I know I missed some epic jams but I also saw some great stuff and came away with a new appreciation for several artists (as I always do).  

As all cruises do, it started out with a Sail Away Party on the pool deck. This one was hosted by Curtis Salgado.  Curtis has fought off some very serious health problems including cancer over the past 7 or 8 years yet his voice never sounded better.   I think through the course of the week he brought out his harp and jammed with just about everyone too.

Super Chikan
Next up was one of my –any many other’s–  favorites, Super Chikan.  My friends who were virgin cruisers enjoyed Super Chikan immensely.  From his custom “chiktar” made from a ceiling fan motor to his famous rooster crow, to ending every song with his catch phrase “Somebody shoot that thing!”  He put smiles on all the faces. I knew what to expect and I must say Super Chikan was in excellent form.  His sets are always great fun.  

The first morning, I attended the Returnee Party.  I walked to the venue with Scrap Iron, former manager for Little Milton and co-MC of the Returnee Party (along with Big Llou from BB King’s Bluesville on Sirius Radio).  I asked Scrap who we were going to see figuring if he’s introducing the act he knows who it is. All Scrap said was “They told me it was going to be something special. But they wouldn’t say who it is.”

When Scrap Iron finally did the introduction he told the audience just what he had told me privately.  And he brought on the All-Girls  All-Star Blues Band!  They really set the bar high right off the bat!  This band consisted of triple guitars, Debbie Davies, Ana Popovic, and Samantha Fish!  On keys was Eden Brent.  On bass was Danielle Schnebelen from Trampled Under Foot.  And on vocals in addition to the singing talents of those already mentioned there was Sista Monica Parker, Tasha Taylor, and the great Denise LaSalle.  On drums was the consummate professional, Tony Braunagel  (lucky dude!).  The highlights of this set for me were a) anything sung by Denise LaSalle, and b) the cover of ZZ Top’s “Tush” sung by Eden Brent.  Free drinks aside, this was a party you didn’t want to miss!   
All Girls All-Star Blues Band

While the Returnee Party was taking place, the Virgins had a party of their own on the pool deck with the Selwyn Birchwood Band. Normally I don’t mention this party because I haven’t been a virgin cruiser since the inception of Bman’s Blues Report. But my virgin friends who attended were very impressed with IBC Award Winner Selwyn Birchwood, who himself was a virgin cruiser.

Soon after, this whole cruise just melted into one big party for me.  I will only write about the things that really made an impression on me (there are many) and will not attempt to go in chronological order.  Quite frankly, I believe my brain cells that kept track of time were lost somewhere in the Caribbean, most likely during Lil’ Eds set at Margaritaville on Grand Turk.  But some of these sets were so memorable I’ll never forget them.

One of the most impressive performers on this cruise was Ana Popovic and her new big band,  Mo’ Better Love.   After growing up in Serbia, she now calls Memphis home and there is a definite Memphis sound to this band.  I’ve seen Ana probably 4 or 5 times over the years beginning back in 2006.  Back then, she struggled with English, both speaking and singing. In those days I remember saying “this girl can really play but I wish she’d just keep her mouth shut.”  We’ll let me tell you with each passing year and chance to see her she’s gotten better both on guitar and in English.  Honestly, the metamorphosis that has occurred for her has been amazing to watch.  She is now a master on guitar and speaks very clearly and sings beautifully in English.   When I got a chance to talk to her I told her I know how hard she has worked on both and how much it is appreciated by her fans.  I saw her play at least twice on this cruise in addition to the aforementioned Returnee Party and the band was a joy to see each time. 
Ana Popovic

The Zydeco band for this cruise –every cruise has one– was Corey Ledet and His Zydeco Band. This band featured Lil Buck Sinegal on guitar although he only got limited chances to solo.  They were very popular with cruisers.  They did zydeco versions of songs by as diverse artists as Bob Marley, Guns & Roses, and Cheap Trick, in addition to some fine material of their own.

Lil Ed  (photo courtesy of Michael Udell)
I wore my fez for the Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials sets of which I saw 3.  Ed was without a doubt one of the most popular artists. The “Ed Heads” were out in full force for all of them, particularly for his land event at Margaritaville on Grand Turk where you could spot a fez here and there on people in the pool while the Blues Imperials jammed on.  <pic of Lil Ed>

In addition to playing numerous sets Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials were the house band for two showings of the Joe Plummer play, “Nothing But The Blues.”  Just WOW!  This play is set at Theresa’s Lounge in Chicago in the early 1980s.  It’s the story of a small blues club in a basement in Chicago that culminates in what we now know as the Theresa Needham Award given annually at the Chicago Blues Festival for outstanding service to the blues community .  To find out more about the history of the real life Theresa’s Lounge, click here:'s/Theresa's.htm

Southern Hospitality (Victor Wainwright, JP Soars, Damon Fowler) were another band who absolutely wowed many cruisers.  I guess many of them were unaware of this band but I not only was familiar with SoHo (as they prefer to be called now to eliminate any confusion between them and Royal Southern Brotherhood) but also each of the guys as solo artists.  In addition to their own smokin’ sets,  Wainwright was hugely popular as Piano Bar host where the jams last until the sun comes up.  He was often accompanied by JP Soars who was also a regular in the Crow’s Nest for late night jams. 

Kenny Wayne Shepherd was a “headliner” of sorts mainly due to his popularity.  His sets continue to be professionally done but with little but manufactured passion for what he’s doing.  However, in a pool deck jam hosted by Trampled Under Foot,  Kenny and TUF guitarist, Nick Schnebelen  engaged in a legendary  jam.  It was the first time I saw Kenny Wayne really seem to have fun playing guitar since I first saw him in 2002 at the Chesapeake Blues Fest.  This jam was the talk of the cruise.

Marquise Knox and Selwyn Birchwood each played a land gig on the island of Anguilla.  They sounded good.  But I cannot really say how good because the venue was totally inadequate for viewing beyond a few dozen people and the sound system was not the greatest either.  This trip billed as The Ultimate Beach Party and sometimes known as The Chilla in Anguilla came up far short of expectations although a day on the beach drinking beer and listening to blues is always fun.

Tab Benoit was great.  His sets were wonderful. And he practically commandeered the Crows Nest jams to the point that we started calling it Tab’s Nest!  He could be found up there jamming almost every night and was frequently spotted playing drums while other people –often JP Soars or Selwyn Birchwood – took over guitar duty.   He also hosted a Bingo game to raise money for the Voice of the Wetlands which was hilarious.  I particularly liked his story of playing golf with Willie Nelson!

I did not get to see but a tiny bit of Sugar Ray & The Bluetones but I did hear their guitarist Monster Mike Welch a few times and he is another artist who has matured into a really top notch musician.

Tommy Castro, who is on every cruise, had a CD release party for his new album The Devil You Know which was very entertaining and his jams with Debbie Davies and Chris Cain were the highlights.

Chris Cain was again the supreme guitarist on the ship.  He was often seen playing with Debbie Davies. And they were part of the Legendary R&B Revue along with The Painkillers.  I guess those West Coast blues folks stick together.  His set in the Queens Lounge (called Theresa’s Lounge for this cruise) was great. 
  And few besides Theodis Ealey were willing to cut heads with him when it was his turn to host the jam.  

One of the most entertaining sets I’ve ever seen anywhere was turned in by what was billed as the Down Home Blues Extravaganza.  It featured the Mel Waiters band with Theodis Ealey on guitar, Latimore on keys, and blues hall of famer, Denise LaSalle.  The highlight of this set was the 15 minute version of Snap, Crackle, and Pop by Denise.  She had me practically rolling on the deck laughing as she described how to “make that coochie snap, crackle and pop” in song while poking fun at Theodis, Bobby Rush, and Clarence Carter.   Theodis Ealey was a guitarist I gained much new respect for on this cruise.  It was almost like I discovered him for the first time.

Finally, I went to a guitar summit of sorts hosted by Debbie Davies where Ana Popovic, Marquise Knox, Monster Mike Welch, Chris Cain, John Hammond, and Nick Schnebelen all talked about how they got started and how their styles developed.  It was very telling to hear how many of them started listening to their parents records at a young age. John Hammond whose father’s work in recording was legendary was to be expected.  But Ana Popovic said that all her father had in the house in the former  Yugoslavia was blues, soul and r&b records from America.  And Chris Cain saying his dad drove a truck yet they had the best stereo system around and how all his dad’s blues and soul records ended up in his room.  Or how Cain’s dad took him to see Ray Charles, Charles Brown, and BB King concerts as a youngster.   Very enlightening. 
Guitar Summit

As usual, I’ve left some people out.  Never got to see Otis Clay although I did get to speak briefly with him.  Same for Sista Monica who remembered a set she did with Elvin Bishop which I attended back in 2003. Or the Neal Brothers (Frederick & Darnell) who I found in the Piano Bar late one night/early one morning.   Or Eric Bibb who I saw do 2 songs on the way to someplace else.  Or The James Hunter Six who my friend who goes by the name Texasbluzer said was phenomenal.  As I said, you just can’t see it all.

Bottom line here folks is that if you are a blues fan and can afford to get away for a week in the Caribbean sun, the Legendary Blues Cruise is definitely the way to go.  And if you’re not a blues fan, one week on this ship and you will be!  

Thanks Dog!!  Bman
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