Marlborough — Approximately a year ago, Hebron resident Glenn Holley saw a video on Facebook of a breathtaking Welsh guitar player named James Oliver.
“I reached out to him via Instant Message and said, ‘If you ever play in the U.S., you need to play my Danny Gatton guitar,’” said Holley.
Gatton is known in guitar circles as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and “I’m very fortunate to own his iconic ‘54 Gibson ES 295,” said Holley.
Oliver responded that it had always been his dream to play in the United States.
“We struck up a Facebook friendship and about six months ago, I asked him if he was serious about playing in the U.S.,” said Holley.
Oliver was serious, so Holley booked his flight, and is currently promoting his debut mini U.S. tour with shows in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and at the Chicken Shack at Carter Farm, in Marlborough, on Sept. 4. Sept. 4 just happens to be Gatton’s birthday (Gatton passed away in 1994).
Holley himself doesn’t play, but has always been a big fan of guitar players who can play in a variety of styles.
“Danny Gatton was the quintessential eclectic American player who was equally adept at playing blues, country, rock, jazz and rockabilly,” said Holley. “I was very fortunate to produce a Danny Gatton album called The Humbler back in 1996, and was able to purchase Gatton’s iconic 1954 Gibson ES 295 about four years ago.”
When he first saw Oliver on YouTube, “I was struck by his stunning technique and ability to play many different styles at an extremely high level, similar to Gatton,” said Holley.
Unsurprisingly, Oliver has more than 20,000 worldwide subscribers to his YouTube channel, and more than 10 million views.
“He’s an incredibly entertaining virtuoso, and I’m thrilled beyond belief to be able to promote his debut American mini-tour,” said Holley.
“Known for his explosive picking technique, James plays a high-energy mix of blues, rockabilly, rock-n-roll, and country with his own distinctive flair,” reads a press release for the tour.
“James Oliver is one of the UK’s most revered and incredible next generation guitar masters,” said Giles Robson, a multi-award-winning blues harmonica icon from the United Kingdom.
John Leckie, the legendary producer for John Lennon, Pink Floyd and Sammy Hagar, called Oliver the “Best guitarist in the UK.”
Blues in Britain Magazine said that Oliver is regarded as “a force of nature in his native Wales, an R&B icon in Sweden, and a guitar hero to his social media fans.”
“As a musician who has immersed Americana guitar styles deeply into my playing, I am beyond ecstatic to be performing in the states for the first time,” said Oliver. “A highlight, I am especially looking forward to playing Danny Gatton’s legendary Gibson on Sept. 4, which is Danny’s birthday.
Oliver noted that Gatton is one of his all-time favorite guitarists, and a big influence on his playing.
“This is a pilgrimage for me,” he said.
Oliver has recorded three contemporary albums infused with his own brand of classic Americana, and was named the 2020 Emerging Artist of the Year at the UK Blues Awards.
“James has honed his remarkable skills by playing over 2,000 concerts across all corners of Europe,” noted Holley. “New England music fans will want to mark their calendars for a rare opportunity to see one of the world’s finest guitar players right in their backyard.”
Purchase tickets to the Carter Farm (86 E Hampton Road, Marlborough) show on Sept. 4, from 1 to 4 p.m., for $15 in advance or $25 the day of the show. Go to Eventbrite.com and search James Oliver.
Oliver will also be appearing on Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. at Strings Bar in Johnston, Rhode Island, (183 George Waterman Road); and on Sept. 3 at 5 p.m., at Treehouse Brewing in Charlton, Massachusetts (129 Sturbridge Road).