On Stage: Selwyn Birchwood making a name for himself

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

selwyn birchwood

Selwin Birchwood

Selwyn Birchwood is one of the brightest new stars to emerge in the world of blues music in recent years. And, he will be one of the brightest stars at this weekend’s Riverfront Blues & BBQ Festival (Tubman-Garrett Park, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-576-2139, http://riverfrontbluesfestde.com/) with a performance on August 7.

In 2013, Birchwood won the world-renowned International Blues Challenge, beating out 125 other musicians from the U.S. and abroad. He also took home the Albert King Guitarist of the Year Award. It didn’t take long for Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer to offer Birchwood a contract.

“Bruce heard me play at IBC (International Blues Challenge) in Memphis,” said Birchwood, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Tampa, Florida.

“I gave him some of my tracks to listen to. I was just hoping to get his opinion on them. Instead, he asked me to make an album for his record label.”

His album, “Don’t Call No Ambulance,” which was his third overall and first for Alligator Records, is a fully realized vision of contemporary blues. Birchwood received both the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014 for this album.

“I think ‘Don’t Call No Ambulance’ is similar to my first two albums in the sense that it is not similar,” said Birchwood. “We play original blues music based on a lot of different styles of blues music. There is a lot of variety — a fresh array of blues.”

Birchwood was born in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s didn’t move him, and he quickly grew bored. Then he heard Jimi Hendrix and by 17 was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy.

“When I was young, I decided I wanted to play an instrument and landed on guitar,” said Birchwood. “I was bored with just hearing the stuff on the radio in the late 90s. When I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time, I was blown away. It was like a spaceship landed. Then, I started listening to Hendrix’ roots — Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy.

“Buddy Guy was one of my favorites. He was coming on tour to the House of Blues in Orlando when I was 17 and living there. I went to his show and was completely floored. I said — what I’m feeling coming off this stage is what I want to do.”

Birchwood has a new record on the horizon.

“I’m writing all the time,” said Birchwood. “We’re just finishing our next record. I’ve been cutting it at Phat Planet Studio in Orlando. It’s a great studio with a lot of great gear. I have eight tracks done and three or four to go. I’ll finish yup the last few when we get back.”

Video link for Selwyn Birchwood — https://youtu.be/bhao7tdF190.

Birchwood’s performance at the Riverfront Blues & BBQ Festival will be on August 7 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the festival range from $30-$90 (three-day pass).

The Riverfront Blues & BBQ Festival schedule features Mr. Sipp, Larry McCray Band, Chaz DePaolo, and Butch Trucks & Freight Train Band on August 5.

The lineup for August 6 features Billy Pierce Band, Garry Cogdell, Alexis P. Suter Band, the Bayou Brothers, Big James & the Chicago Playboys, Tommy Alderson Band, John Nemeth, the Nick Moss Band, Michael Ledbetter, and Ruthie Foster.

The performers on August 7 will be Selwyn Birchwood Band, James Day & the Fish Fry, Samantha Fish and Tab Benoit.

Birchwood will also be performing on August 13 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com). Ticket prices for this show are $21.50 and $33.

brother mosesEven though the band Brother Moses has a Biblical sounding name, the band has more Razorback in its DNA than any Biblical influence. Brother Moses, which will be performing August 4 at The Pharmacy (1300 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, https://thepharmacyphilly.org/events/), was formed a few years ago at the home of the Razorbacks — the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Brother Moses — James Lockhart (guitar, lead vocals), Moses Gomez (guitar), Matthew Heckmann (bass), John-Lewis Anderson (guitar, keyboards) — began in 2014 when Lockhart and Gomez were students at the University of Arkansas.

 “We all are from Arkansas,” said Lockhart, during a full band phone interview Tuesday afternoon from Kingsport, Tennessee. “Moses and I grew up in the same hometown — Van Buren. Matt grew up in Fayetteville and J.L. grew up in Lavaca. We all met at the University of Arkansas.

“Me and Moses were trying to do a band. J.L. and Matt were a few years ahead of us and they had their own band. After about a year-and-a-half, we convinced them to join our band.”

Brother Moses released its first EP “Thank You For Your Patience” a few years ago and followed with “Legends,” which will come out on Missing Piece Records on August 26.

“We started making ‘Thank You For Your Patience’ our sophomore year in college,” said Gomez. “In our house, we had a room that was a studio/music room. When Matthew came in, we did the mixing and pushed it out. Me and James are still in school. The other two guys are done with school.”

“Legends” is being featured on this tour but will become “official” when Brother Moses has an “EP Release Party” on September 1 at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.

“We made ‘Legends’ in October 2014,” said Lockhart. “We recorded it at our producer Raymond Richardson’s studio in Rancho Park, California.

Anderson said, “I had a friend who was pen pals with Raymond Richardson and he hooked us up with each other.”

Gomez said, “When we went to L.A. to make the EP. James and J.L. James had friends in the city to stay with. Moses and I stayed at my brother’s in Lancaster while we were there. We had a 45-minute commute to the studio every morning.

“At least half of that was spent in gridlocked traffic on the 405. We’re from Arkansas so we weren’t used to that kind of traffic. It was a taste of real California.”

“Legends” is a good marker of the band’s progress from the days of its first EP.

“For me, the difference between the two EPs is the energy in the songs,” said Heckmann. “We’ve been playing the songs from ‘Legends’ live for a year now. There’s a frantic energy that we really tap into onstage and people really get into it.”

Lockhart said, “On the first EP, I was directly writing a lot about what was going on in my life. The new EP is more abstract. We’re in the process of writing songs for our next record now. It’s still in the early stages — brainstorming a lot of ideas.”

For Lockhart, “Legends” was somewhat of a family affair. The EP cover shows a man holding a partially-eaten apple while another apple with an arrow through it sits on top of his head.

“That was my grandfather John Anderson,” said Lockhart. “He’s been a real inspiration.”

Video link for Brother Moses — https://youtu.be/98tPng-IOSA.

The show at The Pharmacy, which will start at 8 p.m., will also feature the Mud Guppies. Tickets are $10.

On August 4, Nalani & Sarina and Matt Santy will play at Pairings on the Parkway (Sister Cities Park, 210 North 18th Street, Philadelphia, http://www.ccdparks.org/sister-cities-park/events/pairings-on-the-parkway2016-11). This BYOB event features singer-songwriter style live music from 5:30-7:30 p.m. each week — and is free and open to the public.


‘Charles Dickens’ performs at Winterthur.

Winterthur (Route 52, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-4600, www.winterthur.org) is bringing back one of its popular special events on August 4 — “Charles Dickens Performs!”

Gerald Charles Dickens, great-great-grandson of the author Charles Dickens, returns by popular demand after his sold-out performances at Winterthur of “A Christmas Carol.” A student of the life and works of Charles Dickens, the younger Dickens has written several one-man shows.

This performance features two, one-hour shows — A Child’s Journey with Dickens” and “Mr. Dickens Is Coming!” There is one intermission and a meet and greet follows the performance.

Gerald Dickens will also return to Winterthur on December 8 for performances of the ever-popular “A Christmas Carol.”

“A Child’s Journey with Dickens” deals with a young girl’s memory of meeting Charles Dickens on a train journey in New England and Dickens’s enchantment with both her boldness and innocence.

Mr. Dickens Is Coming” presents a light-hearted and varied look at the life of Charles Dickens as seen through the lens of his colorful characters, diary extracts, and observations of the people who knew him.

The performances on August 4 are scheduled for 1 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children (12 and under).

On August 4, eight of the world’s top competitive drum and bugle corps will be appearing at Talen Energy Stadium (1 Stadium Drive, Chester, 610-821-0345) as part of the DCI (Drum Corps International) Tour of Champions Grand Finale.

DCI Tour of Champions

DCI Tour of Champions

The DCI Tour of Champions will host a talented array of marching music ensembles including the 10-time World Champion Cadets of Allentown (PA), Carolina Crown of Fort Mill (SC), Bluecoats of Canton (OH), Santa Clara Vanguard of Santa Clara (CA), Phantom Regiment of Rockford (IL), Blue Knights of Denver (CO), Madison Scouts of Madison (WI) and Crossmen of San Antonio (TX).

The participating ensembles feature members under the age of 22 who are proficient in three categories — brass, percussion and color guard/dance. Each group performs a 12-minute production based on a wide variety of musical styles.

The “DCI Tour of Champions Grand Finale” begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for Reserved, $50 for Premium Reserved, $75 for Super Premium and $125 exclusive VIP seating. Tickets are available online at www.yea.org/tickets and at the box office the day of the event.

Mary Fahl

Mary Fahl

When Mary Fahl performs at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on August 6, the show will be special for several reasons.

“This will be my first time to play the Sellersville Theater — which is very unusual,” said Fahl, whose home in Upper Bucks County is less than 15 miles from the theater.  “It’s a beautiful theater.

“I will have my whole band with me and that is unusual for one of my shows in this area. I only do about four band shows each year so this is a pretty special event. For this show, I’m going to do a big chunk of ‘Dark Side.’ I’ll close with five ‘Dark Side’ songs.”

In 2011, Fahl recorded her own version of one of rock’s all-time classics — Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Fahl re-interpreted the songs on an album she titled “From the Dark Side of the Moon.

For many artists, the task of re-inventing songs from an album as iconic as “Dark Side of the Moon” could have been too much of a challenge. Not so for Fahl who crafted a disc that honored its roots but established an identity all its own.

“After making the Sony classical album (“Classics for a New Century”), I wanted to do something that was fun,” said Fahl. “An independent filmmaker I knew wanted to use me in a performance piece. I wanted to do something that I didn’t have the ability to write.

“That’s when I decided to do the ‘Dark Side’ recording. It’s like a classical piece of music. I did not intend to make a cover record. It’s my version and it doesn’t sound at all like Pink Floyd’s version. But, a lot of die-hard Pink Floyd fans have responded well. They like the album — and my live versions of the songs.

 Fahl is a singer, a guitarist and a songwriter. More than anything, Fahl is a performer.

“Performing is my primary form of self-expression,” said Fahl. “When I do a show, I want to take you on a complete journey. I want to transform you.”

Fahl has been doing just that for years — ever since her days with the band October Project starting in the early 1990s. Once you’ve heard Fahl sing, from that point on when you hear a song by Fahl, you immediately know who is singing.

“This show is a completely different show than my solo show,” said Fahl. “My solo shows are very intimate. With a full band, it always has to be more structured. I still try to keep the rapport with the audience. I still talk quite a lot.

“My band is from Syracuse. Mark Doyle, who is my music director, plays guitar and piano. He’s based in Syracuse and I asked him to put a band together for me. We have a drummer, a bass player and a keyboard player. They can all rehearse easily in Syracuse and I go there when I need to rehearse with them.”

The band does not figure in Fahl’s upcoming recording plans.

“I’m in the studio right now working on a new record,” said Fahl. “This record will be basically done by next week and I’m going for an early fall release. I’m doing a folky, ambient classical record. It has a lot of ambient guitar, cello and a little me on guitar.”

Many of Fahl’s fans have been with her ever since her time with October Project which lasted from 1991-1996.

“October Project had a large body of work and I still perform some of those songs in my live show,” said Fahl. “If I don’t do some of those songs, fans get upset. I also like doing interesting covers.”

Fahl has written and performed songs for several major motion pictures, including the lead song (“Going Home”) for the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals.” Her music can also be found on the original soundtrack of the 2003 movie “The Guys.”

Video link for Mary Fahl — https://youtu.be/VBuDLBYgeWI.

The show at the Sellersville Theater, which has Jann Klose as the opening act, will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $45

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Rhett Miller and Cliff Hills on August 4, Dallahan on August 5, Tuck & Patti on August 7, Tab Benoit on August 8, New Christy Minstrels on August 9 and Will Hoge on August 10.



TTNG, a British band that will be performing on August 7 at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com), is touring in support of its new album “Disappointment Island.”

The album, which was released by L.A.-based Sargent House on July 8, features TTNG’s trademark musical unpredictability. It also features an unprecedented freshness and energy — a refreshing sound that is invigorating and entertaining.

A big reason the album sounds go good is the way the album was recorded. TTNG — Tim Collis (guitar), Chris Collis (drums), Henry Tremain (vocals, bass) — recorded the new disc last year in Chicago.

“We recorded it in December 2015,” said Tim Collis, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band travelled from Nashville to a show in Atlanta.

“We finished touring North America and went straight to Chicago. We recorded the album at Electrical Audio with Greg Norman as the producer. We liked quite a few records Greg had produced for other bands. They had a good energy and live feel and that was what we wanted. Our last album was too much of a production effort. With ‘Disappointment Island,’ we set up live in the studio. We were in the studio for 14 days and it was all recorded live to tape. It was the first time with this band that we’ve done an analog recording.”

Recording analog is challenging because, unlike with digital recording, mistakes can’t be corrected by a computer. Recording live creates a state of “double jeopardy” because individual parts can’t be replaced. Each take is all-or-nothing.

“There is a little extra nervousness when you do it this way,” said Collis. “You have the feeling that you have to get it right in one go — which isn’t actually the case. We were pretty anxious going in. But, we were well-rehearsed and ready. It was quite a triumph. It sounds like a well-recorded record with a lot of energy in it.”

TTNG, which was previously known as “This Town Needs Guns,” has been around for a decade-and-a-half and has undergone several lineup changes.

“We started in Oxford (England) in late 2003,” said Collis, the only original member left. “We never really played that much in Oxford. We did a few things and then started branching out — to northern England and Scotland and eventually to London. This current lineup has been together for about three-and-a-half years.

“TTNG has played Philadelphia three times. It’s one of our favorite places in America. This will be our first time to play The Foundry. We’ll play four or five songs from the new album but the set list actually spans the last 10 years.”

Video link for TTNG — https://youtu.be/dMgZNpBQbLg.

The show at The Foundry, which also features Lite, will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Doll Skin

Doll Skin

Doll Skin, which will be playing at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) on August 10, is one of the top young hard rock bands to arrive on the scene in the last few years.

So far this year, the band has had headlining dates and support dates with OTEP, Lacey Sturm, Hellyeah, and Escape the Fate.

The band is definitely young. Doll Skin’s four members are each a year apart with the oldest being 19 and the youngest 16. The talented rockers from Phoenix, are touring behind an impressive debut album titled “In Your Face (Again)” on EMP Music Group.

The Arizona-based quartet definitely rocks hard — and definitely is all girls. Drummer Meghan Herring is the eldest and she is just 19. The lineup also includes bassist Nicole Rich (18), guitarist Alex Snowden (17) and vocalist Sydney Dolezal (16).

The band’s music draws from a variety of influences — rock, punk, hard rock, pop, alt-rock and metal. The four musicians may be young but they play like polished veterans. They also have benefited from the production work and guidance of Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson.

“We met when we were studying at the School of Rock in Scottsdale,” said Rich, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band travelled through Iowa en route to a show in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Meghan got the four of us together to compete in a local battle of the bands called Rock Revolution at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale. We all were going to different high schools while Sydney was still in eighth grade. I was at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.”

But, while her classmates were cheering on the Firebirds’ sports teams and getting involved in other school activities at Chapparal, Rich was rocking hard and laying down solid bass lines for her bandmates.

“I always played bass,” said Rich. “When I first started, I wanted to play drums but my parents said they were too loud. I was 13 when I started playing bass.  My biggest influences as bass players are Flea, Victor Wooten and Lyn Z from Mindless Self Indulgence.”

Ellefson, one of the most respected metal/hard rock bassists in the world, also has been an influence.

“We first met Dave Ellefson at Rock Revolution,” said Rich. “He was a guest judge and gave us a perfect score of 10. We watched a video of him watching us and he was in awe of us. After the judging was over, he asked to do a picture of us.”

Ellefson developed appreciation for Doll Skin’s music right from the first time he saw the foursome play.

“He kept up with our local shows,” said Rich. “A year later after another Rock Revolution battle of the bands, he asked to manage us. And, he also became our producer.

“At the School of Rock, we all took lessons, did performances and played in the house band.

“Once we started playing together as a band, everything felt right. There is just a natural chemistry between us –and a good sense of humor. We were friends before we joined a band together.

“We put out our first EP ‘In Your Face’ last October and just released our first album ‘In Your Face (Again).’ We haven’t gotten back in the studio but we’ve been back writing. We hope to be in the studio by the end of the year.”

Video link for Doll Skin — https://youtu.be/zapRHAJGYuA.

The show at the Chameleon, which starts at 6 p.m., also features OTEP, Fire From the Gods, One Day Waiting, Nightmares Of Eve, and Praelia. Tickets are $15.

Other shows over the next week at the venue are We Came As Romans, Islander, A Scent Like Wolves, and She Pulled the Trigger on August 4 and Naughty Professor and The Good Fat on August 5.

Marshall Crenshaw

Marshall Crenshaw

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Joe Scheller and Couple Days on August 6 and Marshall Crenshaw on August 7.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Doctor Paul on August 4, Jeffrey Gaines on August 5, and Jim Boggia on August 6.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host a “Bluegrass Jam” on Augsut 4, Dylann Anderson and Gina Costanzo on August 5 and Lullanas, Lexi Hamilton, Bak Pak, and Natalie Bermudez on August 6.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Shooter Jennings and Waymore’s Outlaws on August 5, and Splintered Sun on August 6.

Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will host Duzzen Matta on August 6.

Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King Of Prussia, 610-354-8118, www.vfcasino.com) will present Chico’s Vibe on August 5 and The Exceptions on August 6.

World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) features Whitney Peyton and Jelly Roll (downstairs) and John Flynn (upstairs) on August 5 and Rhett Miller with Cliff Hills on August 6.

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) will have Clint Coley on August 4, Cedric Burnside Project on August 4, Terrapin Beer Co. Presents Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash featuring Mason Porter on August 5, Tall Trees and Birdie Busch on August 5, PhillyBloco with Paulette Branson & Mixed People on August 6, American Dinosaur with Gone Quite Mad, Chalk & the Beige Americans on August 6, Simon Kirke (of Free and Bad Company) with The Empty Pockets on August 7, Kindred the Family Soul on August 9, and Elizabeth Cook with Derek Hoke on August 10.

Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com) will host Avers, Tinmouth (solo), and Gold Connections on August 5 and Soraia, Creem Circus and Scantron on August 6.

Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) will have Field Mouse, Swanning and Missing Earth on August 4; Flyermile and CaveWomen on August 5; Forlorn Strangers, Black Horse Motel, and Apache Trails on August 6; M. A. Kingston, Hezekiah Jones, and Morgan Pinkstone featuring Jason Jonik on August 9; and Souldiers of Soul, Fat Night, and The Jack Moves on August 10.

Tin Angel (20 South Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-928-0770, http://www.tinangel.com) will present Micah Scott on August 4 and Eric & Happie on August 6.

The New Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the classic musical “Music Man” now through August 27.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

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