Rebecca Hollweg, with Andy Hamill |
at Chumleigh Gardens Cafe,
(29 May 2005)
Planning a visit to London recently, I was delighted to hear about Rebecca Hollweg's free lunchtime gig at Chumleigh Gardens Cafe, Burgess Park. I had no hesitation slotting this gig into my itinerary -- it would provide the perfect antidote to all that sightseeing! I've admired Rebecca Hollweg's sparkling, rootsy brand of contemporary/acoustic pop ever since hearing her excellent debut album June Babies. It's a collection of stunning original songs characterised by superb melodies and often quirky, but always-imaginative, lyrics, and Rebecca's very distinctive voice (somehow reminiscent of an upbeat Joni Mitchell). Her album also features some of the best British musicians, including Andy Hamill (bass) and Mike Outram (guitars).
How to try and capture the intimacy and informality of this lovely outdoor performance by this talented duo? It was a typically understated, low-key but very relaxing affair -- latticework tables and chairs surrounded an ornamental fountain in a private, well-tended garden -- and the bustle of cafe life continued around us. I say low-key because so few people were there! Rebecca and Andy had set up a small PA system in one corner of the garden; Rebecca sang many songs from her album, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, her singing always enhanced by Andy's thoughtful, crafted electric bass playing; particularly memorable was "June Babies," a beautiful song about friendship. I loved "Dancing in the Kitchen" with Rebecca playing kazoo; Andy underpinned the song with a superb bass riff. His playing was sublime too on the very bluesy "Getting On." A particular favourite from the album is "Have You Heard the Birds Sing in the Night?" and it's beautifully sung here.
Informality was definitely the order of the day -- Rebecca and Andy broke for lunch mid-gig, and even joined me at my table for a chat. The second half of the set was if anything even more enjoyable than the first -- and we heard new songs from her forthcoming album, which, according to Rebecca, will have a quieter, country feel. A small group (myself including) moved to sit closer to the performers, and Rebecca and Andy stopped to talk and share moments of humour between each song. I can honestly say that I felt for the first time in my life that I was attending my very own private gig -- quite something! It was a typical English summer's day, and even a few obligatory spots of rain towards the end of the gig didn't spoil a thing.
Rebecca Hollweg is a charming and beautifully relaxed performer; Andy Hamill a sympathetic accompanist. I loved hearing these songs in stripped-back, minimalist duo format, for it provided the perfect contrast to their fuller album versions. The strength of Rebecca's voice and the stylish guitar/bass arrangements ensured that none of the songs' impact was lost.
This was the perfect way to while away three hours during a hectic visit to London -- if you ever get chance to listen to Rebecca Hollweg's lovely songs, grab it!