Review: Connor Selby – Connor Selby


Blues is not just a genre – say many a blues artist – but more like a language or a vernacular. British troubadour Connor Selby joins this creed, adding that blues is much bigger than that – you can take any song and make it the blues if you want: it’s a feeling. Treading the path that has not exactly been in vogue since the 1970s, with Selby‘s signature take on the bluesy side of things echoing both the vintage sound of legends such as Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Bill Withers, as well as more contemporary singer-songwriters such as Ray LaMontagne, Norah Jones, and Foy Vance. So, if this type of sound is your cup of tea, you will be delighted to know that Connor Selby is re-releasing his eponymously titled debut, originally self-released in 2021, this time around on March 3rd, 2023, via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group, featuring four new songs. With the list of ingredients looking like this, it comes as no surprise that there is a timeless melancholic quality to the music – and despite the fact that I probably come off as an insufferable metalhead most of the time, this sort of blues conduct is one of those guilty pleasures that I cherish the most. Despite Selby‘s young age, he has already opened for big names such as THE WHO, PEARL JAM, STEREOPHONICS, and Johnny Marr in big arenas ranging from Wembley Stadium to Hyde Park in London – that says a lot.

The album opens with the laid-back grooves of “I Can’t Let You Go,” a mellow blues song resonating with the air of those vintage Ray Charles bangers, with delicious Hammond licks, New Orleans horns, and all. What first stands out is Selby‘s vocal sound, which is an enticing cross between young Ray Charles and the Australian powerhouse of bluesy Hammond mayhem and raspy vocals, Lachy Doley. Yeah, sure, I’ve heard songs like this a gazillion times over already, but I don’t mind as long as the execeution is of this caliber! The song delivers even up to the most stringent quality requirements you could impose on a contemporary blues number. Selby has been voted “Young Artist of the Year” at the UK Blues Awards for the last three consecutive years (2020, 2021, 2022) and after a few spins with this selection, it starts to make a lot of sense. The bio on his website tells us that Selby took the old-fashioned way to the top, jamming in blues bars as soon as he would be let in, and it shows.

The sturdy Ray Charles vibes get stronger on the next couple of tracks. The press release did not disclose information about who the Hammondist/pianist on the album is, but I would really like to know – the bluesy piano chops on “If You’re Gonna Leave Me,” in particular, are really something! I’m pretty sure good old Ray himself would have approved! It’s one thing to drop a killer uptempo boogie-woogie stomp and a whole new ballgame to make a blues swing like hell. More than once, this Connor Selby endeavor triggers nice flashbacks of the posthumous Ray Charles project, “Ray Sings, Basie Swings,” from 2006, released 2 years after the legend’s death. It was an album that mixed previously unreleased Ray Charles vocal performances from the 1970s and newly recorded instrumental tracks by the contemporary COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA. If there’s one soul-tinted jazz album everybody should have, it is this! It’s a textbook example of killer grooves – and despite the fact that the horn section on this Selby effort is a far cry from a full-tilt big-band jazz lineup, it does not need to back off without a groovy argument and settle for anything even a notch less.

On the fourth track, “Emily,” the mood changes a little as the Ray Charles vibes give way to something more akin to vintage Eric Clapton. In the press release, Selby reveals that going to Clapton‘s 2010 Crossroads festival in Chicago, at the delicate age of 13, was perhaps the most pivotal live music experience for him – to witness legends such as B.B. King and Buddy Guy in action. Having been privileged enough to catch these blues giants on stage once too, it’s easy to believe… and I was already in my 20s when I saw them.

This selection probably couldn’t qualify as a genuine blues article if it didn’t come with a couple of blues ballads. First, “The Man I Ought To Be” talks about accountability, the staple of the standard blues repertoire, in a tempo that would fit any doom metal effort with ease. Selby delivers the vocals with a world-worn elegance, not sounding apologetic like the stereotypical used-car salesman that some of these contemporary blues cats do. Then, “Starting Again” is another ballad type of thing, although a bit faster. The ghost of Ray Charles is once again present rather prominently in these two ballads. Yeah, it becomes quite obvious that good old Ray is one of those major cornerstones for Connor Selby, or as he puts it himself, that Ray Charles is “very much the meeting point for everything I love.” The pinnacle track in terms of this particular vibe is the gospel-tinged album cut, “Anyhow” – if we rule out the bonus track, “My Baby Don’t Dig Me,” which is a Ray Charles cover of a bit more obscure sort.

So, actually, there’s more than a good pinch of vintage soul on the album but I guess, for the sake of convenience, it’s easier to file this endeavor under blues because, just like the maestro himself has said, blues is more than a genre – it’s a vibe. Moreover, to be completely honest, I’m such a dilettante when it comes to these matters that it’s not entirely clear to me where to draw the line between the two. What I can say beyond any reasonable doubt, however, is this: Connor Selby‘s major-label debut is such a show of strength that he is, no doubt, a soulful blues force to be reckoned with!

Written by Jani Lehtinen


  1. I Can’t Let You Go
  2. Falling In Love Again
  3. If You’re Gonna Leave Me
  4. Emily
  5. The Man I Ought To Be
  6. Hear My Prayer
  7. Show Me A Sign
  8. Anyhow
  9. Waitin’ On The Day
  10. Starting Again
  11. I Shouldn’t Care (Bonus Track)
  12. Love Letter To The Blues (Bonus Track)
  13. My Baby Don’t Dig Me (Bonus Track)
  14. The Deep End (Bonus Track)


Connor Selby – vocals, guitars


Mascot Label Group