Album Review: Selwyn Birchwood — Exorcist

I’ve written about Selwyn Birchwood on a number of occasions. Back when I was writing my “30 Days Out” column for Asheville’s altweekly (for a few years now it’s been a Musoscribe feature), I previewed one of his local gigs. I often described him using words like “young” and phrases like “up and coming.”

All that is in the past now. Birchwood gained the high profile his work deserved, and today he’s a well-known and widely acclaimed artist. A searing blues guitarist, he has a powerful voice and a talent for sharp songwriting. As he heads toward his 40th birthday (not quite yet: March 2025), Birchwood is no longer neither young nor especially new. And the Award-winning guitarist returned June 9 with Exorcist, his sixth and newest album.

Despite its title, Exorcist isn’t an overall dark collection of songs. True, the title track is a story of love gone very wrong, but the topical (and occasionally humorous) tracks “Florida Man” and “Swim at Your won Risk” deal with subject matter well outside customary blues fare.

“Florida Man” is worth singling out as a standout tune. All manner of faux news headline snippets are woven into the arrangement, and Birchwood’s wry take on the state where “rebel flags meet Mickey Mouse” makes for a fun listen. Searing guitar work only adds to the enjoyment. The surprising “Show Tune” that closes the album feels more like classic Stax soul than anything else. The instrumental raver is a testament to the wide-ranging approach to music that characterizes Selwyn Birchwood.

The rote I-IV-V structure of classic blues has served many artists well, and while Birchwood’s no stranger to that approach, he doesn’t allow himself to be boxed in by it. The songs have blues attitude and rock power, but they don’t lend themselves easily to strict categorization. That fact is one of Birchwood’s strengths, and should serve him well as his continues his auspicious musical journey.