Kit Holmes and John Etheridge - Norden Farm Arts Centre Maidenhead - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Kit Holmes and John Etheridge - Norden Farm Arts Centre Maidenhead

by alan duttfield Rating:9 Release Date:2012-03-04

I’m sure you’ve seen those advertisements from well known brands giving you the chance to match differing concoctions of food to try and come up with a winning recipe. Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead have put together a diverse musical platter of John Etheridge and Kit Holmes. As with most things it’s a matter of taste, does it work?

Kit Holmes is a singer-songwriter known for playing her own material. No covers or twee pop tunes, she’s a gal who plays the blues. She comes on stage to a full-house, bright, bubbly, immediately bantering with the audience on their notoriety for being a nice crowd. Not a note played and her Yorkshire vowels are settling locals into the evening.

The opening four songs are performed on electric guitar. She begins with 'You Took the Blues', a slow-tempo love song, technical and a little insular. Better suited further up the song list. Polite applause.

'Short Walk to Heaven' is a wonderfully balanced tune, lyrically and musically. Here we see her guitar skill in action, drifting into a solo spot with ease and confidence, the full richness of her bluesy, sultry vocals drifting over the theatre.

While 'Sci-Fi Blues' is penned as a humorous song, about waking up in outer-space with aliens, the arrangement allows a skilled driving-riff pace throughout. She has now switched to acoustic guitar. Fingerpicking chords, with a pause and a bass rhythm dovetailing well with this bonkers but funny storyline. 'Breakout Blues' an instrumental toe-tapper showcasing her ability and timing, putting an individual stamp on a truly bluesy arrangement. 

The 40 minutes set is a good balance of songwriting, guitar skill and entertainment. Most of the set was taken from the new album You Took the Blues. If you do get a chance to pick up a copy, do so. It allows percussion and bass support to enhance her undoubted talent. Kit Holmes is a musical package with a future.

John Etheridge is not a man to take things easy. As he tells the audience, “I’ve been doing this [performing] for 44 years”. From Soft Machine, Stephane Grappelli, John Williams, Nigel Kennedy, solo albums, radio shows, it seems he performs each and every day. Someone who many would describe as one of the world’s greatest guitarists is here, in close proximity to an eager audience about to begin his set.

The performance isn’t just about his wonderful and mesmerising ability on electric and acoustic guitar, it’s an education process. It’s like he’s having a chat with his mates, long rambling introductions, anecdotes and storytelling with an abundance of wit.

He recalls the memory of those not around anymore: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane. With hats on his mind he say’s “Let’s pay tribute to Acker Bilk, although he may not have liked this one”. So he launches into 'Goodbye Pork Hat' by Charlie Mingus.

He plays a couple of tunes by the great Cameroon writer and musician, Francis Bebey. Before doing so, he provides an educational narrative as to why so many ex-French colonial musicians ended up in Paris to ply their trade.

More fun, but important, stories about from Django Reinhardt, Diz Disley, to Stephane Grappelli follow. “If you're choosing a partner, chose someone who plays bass, they will be more reliable. Violinist, saxophonist, you may have some trouble there, stay with a bass-player,” he opines to an amused and enthralled audience.

When he does play, which he does in abundance sitting, standing, electric, acoustic, it is a sheer delight. Not only to listen to, but to to watch the skill and dexterity built up over many decades. I was fortunate enough to see Jose Feliciano at close quarters some years ago. Etheridge’s performance tonight tops that experience.

As we shake hands to go our separate ways, he tells me: “Here comes the worst bit, packing up.” Just in case there's any misunderstanding, he’s referring to equipment and moving onto the next venue.

John Etheridge packing up? Not while his guitars can stand the pace. Congratulations to Norden Farm Centre; John Etheridge and Kit Holmes - a fine recipe.

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