While revelers plan ahead on where to paint the town green this Friday for St. Patrick's Day, World Records hopes audiences will opt to indulge in the blues as well.
As part 111 of World Records' never-ending No Stinkin' Service Charge Blues Series of concerts, the show will be a double bill featuring singer-guitarist Selwyn Birchwood and singer Janiva Magness.
"It was just enormous every time we've played there (at World Records)," Birchwood said from his home in Florida. "I specifically asked my agent to see if we could get that Bakersfield date on this run."
"We're really looking forward to going over there and making some noise."
Birchwood, who recently turned 38, will be returning for the first time since 2020 in support of his 2021 album, "Living In a Burning House." As a performer and in conversation, Birchwood is as incendiary as the album title suggests.
"I try to write music to be listened to not just to be listened to for three seconds on Instagram," Birchwood said. "The album is really supposed to be listened to all the way through like our live shows. We have an entire show that you can sit down and enjoy."
"I'm really happy with the flow of the storytelling on the album."
There's a narrative synchronicity that at times calls back earlier songs or foreshadows future songs. It's pretty easy to see the knockout Birchwood sings about in "She's a Dime" being the same woman his mother, voiced by singer Diunna Greenleaf, warns him to stay away from on the tempo-and-feel-shifting "Mama Knows Best." Then comes the self-explanatory "Rock Bottom" with a third verse running through a set of words, expertly emoted by Birchwood, that starts with "grinning" and ends with "redemption."
It's a checklist that be familiar to anyone who's felt the too-bright light from a sunrise after a long bender. A defeating sadness whose power is in direct proportion to how much gravity the desperate words "never again" still carry. The lyrics here aren't just a prayer, they're a testimony.
"That's one of the ones I'm really proud of on the album," Birchwood said.
But it's on three tracks where Birchwood unleashes what makes the blues so universal to listeners: It's not just the joy and the sorrow, sometimes it's the joy in the sorrow.
It's in claiming one's own power by making a conscious decision to be true to their inner spark ("You Can't Steal My Shine"), finding solace in "one part melody and one part harmony and a splash of imagination" ("My Happy Place") and of how he "found peace in the sounds singing my diary out loud" ("Through a Microphone"). In that last track especially, it's all about how singing about the personal unlocks the universal.
"I feel like that's what music is supposed to do and that's what I'm trying to do with it," Birchwood said, "but I also find that, these days, it's almost a lost art form of writing your own story and writing your own songs and thats really what my focus is."
"People seem to be content to be listening to sorta teenage-level versions of Stevie Ray Vaughan and it's supposed to be deeper than that," Birchwood said. "The first step is the imitation and the end step is the creation of doing your own thing. I think that's lost a lot in the music today because there's just a lack of imagination as well."
"Those are all the things that draw me to music and I wish I was seeing that more. I just try to write the kind of music I want to hear in the world and landscape right now."
The performance will focus on material from "Living in a Burning House" as well as songs from Birchwood's upcoming album "Exorcist," which will be released in June. A perfect title for an artist who's used to cleansing some demons.
And while Janiva Magness, the 2009 B.B King Entertainer of the Year and seven-time Blues Music Awards winner, is going on first, don't mistake her as just a mere supporting act.
If anything, the veteran singer is easily the co-headliner with Birchwood, especially on the strength of her latest release "Hard to Kill" — her 16th — and its defiant stunner of an opener "Strong as Steel." Magness is the epitome of "walking the walk" and is the real deal whose power comes from a very deep personal well.
To Birchwood, artistry is in the emotion, consideration, care and feel the artist puts into their work. Both Magness and Birchwood are bold, fearless artists that do just that with conviction and power, inner fire and steel.
"I'm looking forward to seeing everybody out there at the show I can't wait to get back out there," Birchwood said.
Also, respect to Birchwood for coming up with the lyrics, "I've paid my dues and I've paid my dont's" on "Through a Microphone." That's quality.