Tiny Ruins: Brightly Painted One (Unspk)

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Tiny Ruins: White Sheet Lightning
Tiny Ruins: Brightly Painted One (Unspk)

The previous album Some Were Meant For Sea by Holly Fullbrook -- who was then sole proprietor of the name Tiny Ruins -- was such a delicately nuanced and quiet affair it was hardly surprising on the two ocassions I saw her present it (at the Kings Arms and opening for Fleet Foxes in Auckland's Town Hall) she struggled to keep a boisterous audience's attention.

That's what happens when the opening line of your discreet folk debut is "lean in, friends". The audience was leaning on a bar, or had been.

But at Elsewhere we were enormously impressed by that album (see review here, it was in our Best of Elsewhere 2011 list) and we interviewed the very interesting Holly (here) under the heading "Some Were Meant for Greatness".

Although Tiny Ruins now appear to be a band (well . . .  just Holly, acoustic bassist Cass Basil and drummer Alex Freer formerly of Artisan Guns) there is no appreciable shift into sonic heft, despite the sometime added presence of string players, Finn Scholes on Rhodes and others.

The same folk sensibility impells these thoughtful songs, so it's no surprise the British media (so used to referencing Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson etc) have found this very much to their liking. She's been picking up consistently favourable reviews over there, and here too.

So . . . some were meant for greatness, then?

Fullbroke's deft finger-picking, her intimate vocal range and lyrics of love and its hurts, the subtle arrangements and self-contained songs make for an album of exceptional maturity from someone who -- as the best folk poets do -- manages to make those pleasures and pains seem so close, so deep and yet something to be reflected on in reverie.

You'd be hard pressed to find a more timeless folk song than Reasonable Man here with its conversational tone, or images which resonate so clearly (the opener Me at the Museum, You at the Wintergarden rings with local Auckland references but plays out very differently in the wider world as a hurting truth).

In the film world reviewers say "spoiler alert" (which is about the dumbest damnable thing any sentient being could write) so Elsewhere is going to beg off much further detail on this album.

Just to say it is lyrically detailed (the line about "free will" is marble hard and cold, but emotionally warm), is beautifully recorded and mixed at various Auckland studios (no one needs LA for albums like this) and it stands as a collection of songs where storytelling and imagery ascend to art.

And how lovely to have a subtle suggestion of soul music in the cornerstone song and multi-dimensional images of Straw Into Gold. 

Tiny Ruins have been opening for Neil Finn on his Dizzy Heights tour and after their recent New Zealand tour they head for Australia, Canada and the US).

My thinking is -- on the evidence of two remarkable albums -- you should be there at a show to stop, take a breath and listen.

After all, some are meant for greatness.

In their own quiet way, of course. 

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