Live Review: Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection with Erin Rae & Sean Thompson, The Ivy House, Peckham – 15th August 2023

A distinct air of the independent was imbued in tonight’s show. Not that of the scuffed hair and tight jean indie variety, but more so the DIY ethic. Firstly The Ivy House venue itself, sitting just beyond Peckham Rye Park being London’s first co-operatively owned pub, the first pub in the UK to be listed as an Asset of Community Value, and the first building to be bought under the “community right to bid” provisions of the Localism Act. In these days of struggling local establishments and small venue live licenses suffering under the incoming waves of gentrification, this can all only be a good thing. Secondly then, although Spencer Cullum was the evening’s headline act, he was more than happy to share the stage and stage time amongst close friends and musical cohorts. Aiding him onstage and taking the mic for their own pieces were Nashville based colleagues Erin Rae and Sean Thompson. Completing the line up was Jenny Hogan of Norfolk locality.

Cullum opened the proceedings serenely with ‘Kingdom Weather’ and ‘Seaside’ with Rae adding vocal accompaniments along with Thompson’s electric guitar improvisations and Hogan filling the soundscape with some fine fluid flute lines. Romford raised, Cullum’s musical talents took him to Nashville becoming a much sought after pedal steel session and live touring musician. After finding his feet at the home of country he has made two albums under his own name – 2021’s ‘Coin Collection’ and this year’s suitably tilted follow up ‘Coin Collection 2’. Despite both records being Nashville recorded and featuring the pick of the local musicians, Cullum’s own sound is very much British leaning with more than a healthy influence of Kevin Ayers, Traffic and The Kinks to name but a few. This was ever evident for ‘Betwixt and Between’, a tune that doffs its cap to The Wicker Man and an autumnal UK milieu. ‘Cold Damp Valley’ meanwhile painted a not so dissimilar picture, albeit with an upbeat country plucking whilst ‘Imminent Shadow’ was a perfectly wistful and subtly brooding offering.

For Erin Rae’s own compositions she performs a longing ‘Lighten Up and Try” and a superbly effective ‘Bad Mind’. “How do you follow that?” Sean Thompson proclaims, but he does indeed do with a vibrant ‘Saturday Drive’ and a more stomping ‘Before The Flowers Bloom’ (both from 2022’s ‘Sean Thompson Weird Ears’ project & self titled album). All the while Cullum provides pedal steel augmentation which he grinningly evidently enjoys and appears thus contentedly happy to be a musical associate. He does return to main vocal duties though for a finale of Moondog’s ‘High On a Rocky Ledge’. It is the sparsest of the evening’s performances but is a fine close to an excellent night of flowing tunes and quality musicianship.

Support came from local South London project Lichen who performed a de-tuned off kilter yet melodic folk rock that at points slowed into slowcore music territory, but ultimately would speed into a slacker groove and with the clever use of violin avoided all things becoming too sporadic. They were keen to note their debut sales of t-shirts at the merch table which for now happily represented the height of success and newfound commercial glamour.

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