By | Teri Briggs
It was a special treat to welcome Kevin Selfe on Portland’s Playlist at Portland Radio Project last Wednesday night. In case you don’t know, Kevin fronts the popular Blues band, Kevin Selfe and The Tornadoes. He says the Blues is “getting what’s inside of you out,” and if you’ve spent any time listening to this genre, you might notice that songs are often telling stories about hard times and relationship woes.
The first hour was spent listening to Kevin’s musical influences which covered Rock and Blues greats: Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf, AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Freddie King, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Muddy Waters. Having more of an interest in sports than music, Kevin didn’t start playing guitar until he was 17. When he heard Howlin’ Wolf’s, “Smokestack Lightnin’,” he knew that’s what he wanted to do. With only one month of chord lessons, he talked about spending 10-12 hours a day teaching himself to play the guitar by studying the styling of his influences.
The second hour focused on Kevin’s original material, as well as a Live performance of “Virginia Farm,” and the brand new but not quite finished, “Have You Gone Crazy.” Kevin’s songs are personal reflections of things observed, relationships that have come and gone, and his family. When you see a Kevin Selfe show, what you will get is a variety of Blues styles along with a tapestry of stories that only a skilled storyteller can weave into perfection. He frequently performs as a trio with Allen Markel and Don Schultz. For the “Big Band” shows, he is joined by Jimi Bott, Allen Markel, Joe McCarthy, Chris Mercer, Brad Ulrich, and Steve Kerin; all well known and extremely talented musicians.
We listened to tracks off his latest album, “Buy My Soul Back,” released in October, 2015, http://kevinselfe.com/…/…/blues-blast-cd-review-oct-29-2015/. One of Teri’s personal favorites, “Digging My Own Grave,” is a song inspired by a friend who dug graves by hand for the church. Listening to this song, you can feel the weight of the job at hand. He told the story of his Dad, who nearing the end of his life, kept on pushing through. At the time Kevin wrote “Keep Pushin or Die Trying,” he didn’t know it was about his Dad. The song’s message is to stay focused, don’t give up. “Virginia Farm,” which he performed Live, is about his Grandfather’s farm in Virginia, and Kevin’s wish that they wouldn’t have had to sell it after his passing.
Kevin moved to Portland in 2007 because of the vibrant Blues scene and the supportive community within it, from the musicians themselves to the fans who come to their shows.
He is a VizzTone Recording Artist, a 2-time Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame Inductee, an 8-time Muddy Award Winner for Blues Act of the Year, host of the Sunday Night Blues Jam at The Blue Diamond PDX, and a Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival performer.
From a smile that lights up the room, to his guitar pickin and soulful cry of the Blues, while backed by an impressive array of musician’s, you can’t go wrong with Kevin Selfe and The Tornadoes. With over 200 shows a year, at cities up and down the West Coast, this is a band you need to put on your radar if you haven’t already. They have a couple shows coming up that are not to be missed. You can banish those tax day Blues on April 15th at Trails End Saloon in Oregon City, and April 23rd at the Gemini Pub and Lounge. For the complete tour list, visit his website at, www.kevinselfe.com.