Kevin Selfe is a man who has dedicated his life to the blues. The Virginia native and recent Portland, OR transplant is showing that passion and dedication through the release of his second album Playing The Game, with his band the Tornadoes.
In a world of teenage guitar prodigies, Kevin learned to play the guitar at a relatively late age while studying Meteorology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. “I had plenty of time to practice in my dorm room”, Kevin explains “because my major was not real popular with the ladies.” He jokingly adds “They used to call us the weather dorks”.
“My roommate was a bass player and he introduced me to this whole new world of music that I wasn’t aware of. While everybody else was into the grunge thing, we were listening to Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Elmore James. It was like this big light went on.”
After graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Meteorology in 1995, Selfe felt like there was something missing, something else calling him. He decided to abandon a potential career as a weatherman, and pursue the music that consumed his soul, the blues. Kevin states “I don’t think I ever really chose to play the blues…I think somehow the blues chose me.”
In 1997 at the age of 23, he joined the regionally popular Fat Daddy Band based out of his hometown of Roanoke, VA. During his tenure with them, the Fat Daddy Band won the Charlotte Blues Society's 2001 Talent Competition and was a finalist at the Blues Foundation's 2002 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, thus being named one of the top 6 unsigned blues bands in the world.
After spending 6 busy years touring the South and recording 3 CD’s, Kevin left Fat Daddy and joined forces with fellow Virginia bluesman Rodger Crowder, forming Little Rodger and the Cheap Thrills in 2003 (who incidentally was also a finalist at the IBC in 2008). Over the next 2 years Kevin continued touring, regularly performing at some of the nation’s best blues clubs including The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, IN; Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville, TN; and The Double Door in Charlotte, NC
In early 2005, Kevin decided it was time to go out on his own and formed his own group, Kevin Selfe and The Tornadoes. The band quickly became known as one of the tightest and most energetic blues outfits around. In September 2005, he and the Tornadoes had the honor of backing up Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater at the Taste of The Blue Ridge Blues Festival in Roanoke, VA. In January 2007, Kevin backed up former Muddy Waters sideman and harmonica legend, the late Carey Bell, on one of his last shows. “Getting to do a gig with Carey was one of those magical nights I’ll never forget,” Kevin remembers. "It was an incredible experience.”
Always searching for the next adventure, Kevin relocated to the blues hotbed of Portland, OR in February 2007 where he quickly sought the right musicians to form a West Coast version of The Tornadoes. He hired long-time Portland drummer Don Shultz (most recently with Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers), and newly transplanted New Yorker Allen Markel on bass. The three hit it off immediately and in a little more than two years they have become a Northwest favorite, with performances at the Waterfront Blues Festival as well as Muddy Award nominations from the Cascade Blues Association for Best New Act (2007), Best Contemporary Blues Act (2008, 2009), Best Traditional Blue Act (2009), Best Electric Guitar (2007,2008,2009), Best Bass (2008,2009), and Best Drums (2008).
Longtime Cascade Blues Association President Greg Johnson states “Kevin draws the crowds to the band with fiery fretwork that gets “wanna-be” guitar heroes excited and professionals listening closely. As a band, the three together all fall in complete synchronization with one another on stage as a true ensemble that just may be one of the best outfits on the West Coast.”
As for Playing The Game, Kevin humbly adds “I feel honored to have been able work with such talented musicians in Don and Allen on this CD. The groove and soul in their playing is beyond words”. The recording consists of ten original compositions that highlight the bands depth, virtuosic talent, and tongue in cheek humor, while still staying true to the blues. From the driving shuffle “Just Like Pulling Teeth” to the jumping swing “Walking Funny” and the funky rhythms of “Blues Don’t Take A Day Off”, Playing The Game has something to offer most every blues aficionado.