Gig review: Tiny Ruins

This unassuming songwriter from New Zealand delivers the goods at The Wilmington Arms while surfing on a wave of critical goodwill for her pretty, acoustic debut.

Like a dingy-looking bar on the outskirts of town that turns out to contain the finest ale and cosiest snug, the full charm of Hollie Fullbrook’s music takes a little patience to reveal itself.

Seeming a little shy on first taking the stage, her quirky wit and tangential background tales that introduce each song are signposts to an all-too-rare talent.

Picking out simple melodies from her acoustic guitar from behind an unkempt barnet, it’s not until you listen to the vignettes that follow that her light emerges from under the bushel.

Her soft, melancholic tones most closely resemble Kathryn Williams, but delivered with slightly more gusto and flecked with the odd vocal tic a la The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan.

At this, her final show before heading back Down Under to record her second album, we are treated to a smattering of new material alongside a glut of her favourites from the well-received LP Some Were Meant For Sea.

Her accomplished songwriting is evident from the off. Not afraid to plough her own furrow, Hollie’s songs are inspired by anything that has tickled her imagination, from poems (Straw Into Gold, written for piano five months ago about using whatever you’ve got) to pigeons (a pretty allegory for freedom set upon a piano ditty, Pigeon Knows).

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There’s even floating bishops (Priest With Balloons) and a widow as “old as the hills” with a “bullet in her bonnet and a gun in her pocket,” each tale charming and totally absorbing.

With such a storyteller’s knack, even more prosaic vignettes like a couple’s love on a ferry ride at night is disarming in its romantic simplicity.

Drawing the back-room venue into her own homespun world where the lovely and ludicrous are bonnie bedfellows, Hollie is kept on-stage by calls for encores from the small but feverish, long-converted congregation. On the strength of this set, why not join the flock?