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2013 Blues Fest – The Business Behind the Luck: Selwyn Birchwood Band (Thursday, July 4, 3 p.m., Bandshell) PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 05:55

Selwyn Birchwood’s e-mail signature doesn’t note that his band took the top prize in the 2013 International Blues Challenge. It doesn’t say that he won the Albert King award as the Memphis event’s top guitarist. Instead, it says: “Selwyn Birchwood, MBA.”

And, yes, that is a Master of Business Administration degree. Suffice to say that Birchwood – also a singer and songwriter – is not your father’s (or grandfather’s) bluesman.

“That’s always been a big part of my life is the scholastic part of it,” he said in a recent phone interview. “My family has always pushed me to do schoolwork and do well in school. ... A lot of people say that you don’t need school because you’re playing music. I looked at it the other way: I think if you’re playing music, you need it even more, because if, Lord forbid, gigs dried up and you have to get a job in a pinch, it’s a lot easier to get a job if you’ve got a degree or a graduate degree ... . I always saw it as a challenge as well. I always wanted to see if I could do it.”

So he got his undergraduate degree in business marketing, and in December earned his MBA. “I was ... kind of seeing how it can apply to my music,” he said.

2013 Blues Fest – In That Same Line: John Primer (Friday, July 5, 10 p.m., Tent) PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 05:54

John Primer grew up loving the guitar, but it took a while for him to have his own.

An uncle made one on the side of the house in Mississippi with nails and wire when Primer was two or three years old, in the late 1940s. “I liked the sound,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I loved it.” He’d lie on the floor, looking at guitars in catalogs.

By the time he was five, he said, he was playing the side-of-the-home guitar, “when they go to the field or something.”

At about that time, he said, he ordered one for $7 or so, but “I never did get it.” It was at the post office, cash on delivery, and “I didn’t have no money. My mom, she was out of town, working ... . She didn’t come back in time to get it, so they sent it back. That broke my heart.”

2013 Blues Fest – Thursday, July 4: Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 05:53

Selwyn Birchwood Band, 3 p.m.

CD Baby says it best about Selwyn Birchwood’s CD FL Boy: “Eclectic original tunes ranging from swampy roots music to upbeat front-porch blues to hip-shakin’ funk grooves.” That description applies to his band’s high-energy live shows, too.

When I heard the Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in February, it was obvious to me that it was the best band in the finals. For the past few years, I’ve disagreed with and been disappointed by the winning bands chosen at the IBC finals, but in 2013 the judges got it right. The Selwyn Birchwood Band was chosen number one out of more than 200 bands in the competition, and Selwyn Birchwood won the Albert King award for best guitarist.

2013 Blues Fest – Thursday, July 4: Tent PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 05:52

Kevin “B.F.” Burt, 4 p.m.

For more than 20 years, Coralville’s Kevin “B.F.” Burt has been electrifying audiences throughout the nation, dispelling the myth that true blues has no roots in Iowa. His soul-inspired presentation is unique, which consistently gets him compared to a range of artists including Bill Withers and Aaron Neville, with the ability to build an audience rapport that has been compared with greats such as B.B. King.

Kevin is a self-taught musician (vocals, harmonica, and guitar) who has also had some stage-acting experience. In the off-Broadway play Klub Ka, the Blues Legend, Kevin played Papa Gee and arranged all of the blues music. The play, which originally ran in Iowa City and then in Washington, DC, also had a two-week run at LaMama’s Experimental Theater in New York City and was sold out each night. Kevin has also had roles in several other plays at the University of Iowa – for example, playing Whining Boy in the acclaimed August Wilson play The Piano Lesson.

2013 Blues Fest – Friday, July 5: Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 05:51

Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge, 3 p.m.

The first Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge final round is being held at the festival this year with three bands vying for a chance to be named the victor. Each of the bands will play for 20 minutes, with the winner of the challenge qualifying for the 30th International Blues Challenge in Memphis, as well as receiving a paid bandshell slot in this year’s Mississippi Valley Blues Festival – at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.

The challenge started with three preliminary rounds at the sponsoring venue, The Muddy Waters in Bettendorf, where one band from each round advanced to the finals. The Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge preliminary rounds featured a strong field of competitors, including Harris Collection, the Jared Hughes Band, Mississippi Misfits, and Wheelhouse.

The three bands that advanced to the finals were the Chris Avey Band, Serious Business, and the Rock Island Rollers – playing Friday in that order.

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