ARTISTS: Tony Cox, Joel Fafard, Natasha Meister

Rating: ****

What kind of music works in a bakery, you have to wonder as you step into the bowels of the Olympia Bakery building.

Tony Cox persuaded the Olympia Bakery owners to allow him and fellow guitarists Natasha Meister and Joel Fafard to take over the space and, as it turns out, tightly packed with plastic chairs and the bare minimum of a stage, the make-shift, cavernous venue has pretty good acoustics.

Meister kicked off proceedings with a tight set of blues numbers which are a mix of her own material, tracks by John Mayer and a really good one from Stevie Wonder. She’s got a light touch – once she packs on the years her vocal sound will mature, but she is already on the right track with the playing.

She follows the same technique as the other two players on the bill – they use their right hands to pluck the strings for the bass, rhythm and percussive line.

She used a flat pick, Cox used fingers and a pick and then Canadian blues guitarist Fafard brought in the slide, which is pretty rare in these parts.

While Cox incorporates the melody into the whole effect, Meister and Fafard also sing. So, sometimes the melody is in the music, and sometimes in the voice and overall the effect was bluesy enough to create a difference, but not depressingly blue.

Cox took over from Meister with that easy facility we have come to expect from the acoustic guitar master. He started with an amazingly deep reverb on Bush Telegraph that never compromised the tune and then asked for even more juice for Salty Towers, a tune he created while in Canada.

Heavily influenced by the American picking style, it was a very clean sound, with every note standing on its own, yet flowing into the next.

He drew on the African beat with an almost maskandi repetition on Jambanja, with the strong bass notes creating an insistent angry tone, but he then proceeded to lull you into a false sense of security with a few lighter tunes and a workshop 101 on the vagaries of tuning a guitar into an opening tuning. And then he just totally blew everyone out of the water with a flamenco flair, which is kind of par for the course for Cox. (And, unusual for him, he actually sang on Invisible Man).

Fafard, though, dominated the second half of the night, singing (unfamiliar tunes to a local audience) in a gravelly voice totally suited to the blues.

Between songs he regaled the audience with stories about where he lives, places he’s performed and people he’s met. Fafard is a natural storyteller, evident in his music (like when he sings the traditional Ballad of John Hardy), but the best part is his guitar playing.

He makes it seem so easy, but the way he applies the (usually banjo) clawhammer technique to the guitar is actually pretty complicated. Squirrels really did sound like crazy rodents running across the roof at 6am and you will hear touches of bluegrass as well as the more traditional slide to make the guitar sigh.

Fafard alone would be worth the night’s price of admission, just for the rarity and excellent quality of this style of guitar playing, but together the trio created a wonderful night of varied style within the acoustic blues guitar genre.


• At the Olympia Bakery, cnr Main and St Johns roads, Kalk Bay, on Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 9pm and Sunday at 6.30pm.

• Tuesday, December 11: Die Boer, Durbanville ,at 8pm;

• Wednesday, December 12: Dorp Straat Teater, Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, 8pm;

• Friday, December 14: George Museum, George, at 8pm;

• Saturday, December 15: Pezulu in Knysna at 8pm (Meister will not perform here); and

• Sunday, December 16: Overstrand Municipal Auditorium, Hermanus, at 7pm.