IT has been many years now since a young Sarah Joyce played her first gig, with some reluctance, at the Speckled Trout pub in New Milton.

The pub is no more and sadly missed, but Sarah has gone on to great things - yet that didn't deter Rumer, as she's now known, from returning to her hometown for a gig to help raise funds for Common Ground, a trust for the arts and young people in the New Forest.

Her debut album, Seasons Of My Soul, has gone platinum; she has sung with Sir Elton John, Jamie Cullum and Jools Holland and collaborated with legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach.

But there were no airs and graces as Rumer linked up with a hand-picked homecoming band featuring local musicians and backing vocalists from Bournemouth, Ringwood and New Milton - in fact, she enjoyed playing with them so much (“They're like a mistress band,” she joked) that she promised to come back for more.

In which case, I suggest you beg, steal or borrow a ticket, because this is a class act.

From the opening bars of Am I Forgiven to the encore, David Gates' Goodbye Girl, an appreciative full house was treated to some of the most sumptuous songs of the century so far ... Blackbird (written while living in a commune at Gaunts House, near Wimborne), Healer, Saving Grace, Come To Me High and the wonderfully seductive Slow.

Rumer talked about meeting the great Aretha Franklin, who loved her tribute song, and delivered a heart-rending On My Way Home, dedicated to the memory of her late mother.

Between songs, she was chatty but seemed a little nervous, even shy, just like Sarah must have been all those years ago.

But when the excellent band struck up, she was transformed - flowing black dress, expressive hands, soaring voice, supreme, serene.

She's been compared to Karen Carpenter and even Carole King, who, coincidentally, is in the UK and still going strong at 70.

It has taken Rumer a while to make it, but with that timelessly smooth delivery and soulful (and soul-baring) songwriting, there's every reason to hope she may show similar longevity.

From the Speckled Trout via the Albert Hall, Glastonbury and a Royal Variety Performance back to New Milton for a very special one-off, it's been quite a journey ... and long may it continue.