NABF co-founder Paul Benjamin was among the judges at this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and the 2013 North Atlantic Blues Festival will open with the IBC’s Best Band winner. Fronted by Selwyn Birchwood, who won the IBC’s Albert King Award for Best Guitarist (a custom Gibson ES-335 guitar featuring the Blues Foundation's logo and a Category 5 amp), the Sunshine State’s Selwyn Birchwood Band promises to kick off the day with some swampy Florida blues.

Birchwood may be young, but he has paid his dues on several fronts. A few weeks before he and his band competed in Memphis, he finished his Master’s Degree in Business Administration at University of Tampa. He got his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2007 from University of Central Florida … and went to “blues college” at age 19, playing on tour for the great Sonny Rhodes.

The band’s other members also are very experienced musicians and no strangers to the road. Drummer Curtis Nutall has traveled internationally with many bands including The Blind Boys of Alabama and five years with Joe Louis Walker. Bass player Huff Wright and saxophonist Regi Oliver have found themselves backing notable blues artists all over the world including Lucky Peterson and Joey Gilmore.

The Selwyn Birchwood Band has made a significant impact on fans throughout its home state of Florida at clubs and festivals alike, continuously wowing audiences with high-energy performances rooted deeply in the traditions of the blues greats. In recent years, they have found themselves alongside the best in the business, opening for Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker Jr. and Joe Louis Walker, among many other international acts.

The band has been touring in support of its current CD “FL Boy” and is hard at work in the studio on a second release. Festivalgoers can expect a hip-shaking, roof-rattling mix of blues.