Selwyn Birchwood, Florida's rising young blues fireball, is a guitar and lap-steel-playing bundle of pure energy. He delivers his original songs with a revival tent preacher's fervor and a natural storyteller's charisma made all the more impactful by his raw, unvarnished vocals. Birchwood plays high-octane blues -- at once deeply rooted, funky and up-to-the-minute -- with true passion and honest emotion. With his band feeding off his drive and exuberance, the striking 6'3" 29-year-old with his trademark Afro roams the stage (often barefoot), ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease. 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."
In 2013, Birchwood catapulted from local hero to shooting star. He won the world-renowned International Blues Challenge, beating out 125 other bands from the U.S. and abroad. He also took home the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award. It wasn't long before Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer offered Birchwood a contract. His debut album, Don't Call No Ambulance, is a fully realized vision of contemporary blues. Birchwood's original songs range from raucous romps to hill country stomps, from searing, serious slow blues to modern blues rock. Between his uninhibited sense of fun and adventure and his serious-as-a-heart-attack musicianship, Don't Call No Ambulance is a window into the future of the blues. "All originals and no filler," he says of the album. "It's that genuineness of emotion in the songs that people can hear."
The Tampa Tribune says Birchwood plays with "power and precision reminiscent of blues guitar hero Buddy Guy. He is a gritty vocalist [who is] commanding with his axe." According to Iglauer, Birchwood is the real deal. "Selwyn Birchwood is a terrific young blues talent with a huge future. He 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. Selwyn is destined to be one of the next stars in the blues world."
At just 29 years old, Jarekus Singleton is a musical trailblazer with a bold vision for the future of the blues. Springing from the same Mississippi soil as Charley Patton, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Singleton's cutting-edge sound—equally rooted in rap, rock and blues traditions—is all his own. He melds hip-hop wordplay, rock energy and R&B grooves with contemporary and traditional blues, turning audiences of all ages into devoted fans. With his untamed guitar licks and strong, soulful voice effortlessly moving from ferocious and funky to slow and steamy to smoking hot, Singleton is a fresh, electrifying bluesman bursting at the seams with talent.
Singleton's Alligator debut, Refuse To Lose, features a scintillating guitar attack and lyrically startling original songs all sung with a natural storyteller's voice. Produced by Singleton along with Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer and recorded at PM Music in Memphis, the album is an impossible-to-ignore first step onto the world stage. With songs telling real life, streetwise (sometimes funny) stories brimming with surprising images, pop culture references, infectious rhythms and unexpected musical twists, Refuse To Lose unleashes a new wave of blues for a new generation of fans.
Jarekus Singleton has been tearing up clubs and festivals across the South, and has performed twice at the world-renowned Chicago Blues Festival. He has been featured at South Carolina's Lowcountry Blues Festival and Festival of Discovery as well as many other festivals in the South and clubs throughout Mississippi. With the addition of high-visibility performances including Springing The Blues Festival, Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, The North Atlantic Blues Festival, The PA Blues Festival, The Cincinnati Blues Festival, and The Festival International du Blues de Mont-Tremblant, Singleton is on the cusp of international stardom.
"Great songs, whether we write them or not, bring great things," says guitarist/pianist/vocalist/songwriter Wendell Holmes. "And we are all about striving to write, find and perform great songs." The Holmes Brothers—Wendell, bassist/songwriter/vocalist, Sherman Holmes and drummer/vocalist and brother-in-spirit Popsy Dixon—are true treasures of American roots music. For 35 years, The Holmes Brothers' joyous and moving blend of blues, gospel, soul, R&B, rock 'n' roll and country has been captivating audiences around the world. Their spine-tingling three-part harmony singing, mixing Wendell's gruff and gravelly vocals with Popsy's soaring falsetto and Sherman's rich baritone, brings the spirit of gospel-inflected deep soul music into every song they perform. Equally gripping is the rhythmic foundation laid down by Sherman's bass playing and Popsy's drumming, perfectly complementing Wendell's blues-soaked guitar solos and church-inspired piano playing. The band expertly blends Saturday night's roadhouse rock and blues with the gospel passion of Sunday morning's church service. Rolling Stone says The Holmes Brothers play "impressive, fervent country soul." Entertainment Weekly goes further, declaring "The Holmes Brothers are juke joint vets with a brazenly borderless view of American music...timeless and rapturous."
Singing with a passion and fervor directly influenced by the classic soul heroes, JJ Grey has written and recorded five albums of original songs steeped in the rhythm & blues, rock, and country soul of his native backwoods home outside Jacksonville, Florida. Grey comes from a long tradition of Southern storytellers and, in that spirit, he fills his songs with details that are at once vivid, personal and universal. After a decade of hard touring, he still spends eight months of the year on the road, bringing his music to a loyal, ever-growing, worldwide fanbase.
In a live performance review in The New York Times, writer Nate Chinen praised JJ's "balance of wildness and cool" describing his music as "Southern swamp rock with undercurrents of Memphis soul. His songs chronicle ambiguous truths and unambiguous urges," delivered by Grey's "winningly uncontrived vocals." Likewise, Billboard has praised Grey's "world-beating blend of Southern rock, blues and Florida swamp soul."
Boston's Jesse Dee is a singing, songwriting, guitar-playing soul man—a modern day trailblazer inspired by the old school. Dee's passion is exploring and updating soul music for contemporary audiences. With his warm and honest sound, his instantly memorable melodies and positive, slice-of-life lyrics (evoking the heyday of the Brill Building songwriters), he accomplishes just that. His inventive, hook-filled songs are delivered with buoyant, youthful exuberance. Live, he always brings down the house, and keeps his ever-growing fan base coming back for more. His band lays down driving, infectious grooves while Dee's expressive vocals put him in a class by himself. On the strength of his fervent live shows, Dee plays to packed clubs in New England and has toured across Europe, earning new fans at every gig. The Boston Herald declares, "Dee has an explosive voice. He possesses a powerful, raspy tenor and an uncanny phrasing ability that can't be taught."
Dee won the 2010 Boston Phoenix Music Poll Award for Best R&B Act, both for the strength of his live show and the aftershocks of his 2008 debut CD, Bittersweet Batch (7Not Records/Munich Records). With his new album, ON MY MIND / IN MY HEART, his first for Alligator Records, Dee is now poised to break into the minds and hearts of music lovers across the country and around the world. The album, eleven original songs produced by Dee and Jack Younger, is a sweet soul masterpiece full of good vibes and funky, joyful music. Like Sam Cooke, Dee writes about real life with true emotional poetry. His lyrics are set to toe-tapping melodies with horn charts channeling The Memphis Horns and 1970s-era Van Morrison.
Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Michael "Iron Man" Burks stands tall as a major contemporary blues figure. With a nickname earned by his hours-long, intensely physical performances, fearsome guitar attack, tough, smoky vocals and the thousands of miles logged behind the wheel of his touring van, Burks is a modern blues hero. Nobody in today's blues world successfully bridges searing electric guitar blues with unbridled rock and roll energy like Burks. The Chicago Sun-Times recently said Burks is "poised on the brink of major stardom."
Boasting remarkable natural talent and a blue-collar work ethic, Michael Burks is a musician with deep roots in the blues tradition. He performs every song he plays with intensity, conviction and soul.
Rick Estrin ranks among the very best harp players, singers and songwriters in the blues world today. His work on the reeds is deep in the tradition of harmonica masters Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter Jacobs, while at the same time pushing that tradition forward. The Associated Press called his harp playing "endlessly impressive." The great guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. (who was schooled by Robert Johnson and who played on most of Little Walter's Chess recordings) told Estrin, "Little Walter would be very proud of you." His award-winning original songs have been favorably compared with those of Willie Dixon and the team of Leiber and Stoller. And his hipster, street-smart vocals are the perfect vehicle for driving those songs home.
For more than 30 years and nine albums, Rick fronted the jumping, swinging Little Charlie & The Nightcats, featuring guitarist Little Charlie Baty.