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REVIEW: John Etheridge and Kit Holmes at Norden Farm

REVIEW: John Etheridge and Kit Holmes at Norden Farm

Owen Peters

REVIEW: John Etheridge and Kit Holmes at Norden Farm

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 its 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.

Whilst “Sci-Fi Blues” is penned as a humorous song, namely waking up in outer space with Aliens, the arrangement allows a skilled driving riff pace throughout as she has now switched to acoustic guitar. Finger-picking chords, with a pause and bass rhythm dovetailing well with this bonkers, but funny storyline.

‘Breakout Blues’ an instrumental toe tapper showcasing her ability, timing and individual stamp on a truly bluesy arrangement.

The forty minutes set is a good balance of songwriting, guitar skill and entertainment throughout. 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. 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. What some would describe as one of the worlds greatest guitarists is here, in close proximity to an eager audience about to begin his set.

The set/performance isn’t just about his wonderful and mesmerizing 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 said: “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 ranging from Django Reinhardt, Diz Disley, to Stephane Grappelli.

“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 said 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, but 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 on the night topped 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 whilst his guitars can stand the pace.

Congratulations to Norden Farm centre, John Etheridge and Kit Holmes a fine recipe.

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