Upstairs/Downstairs: Live music with Spencer Cullum, Sean Thompson, Bobby Lee and Reggie and the Krayfish

Join Alan Dearling on a busy night of psych, ambient, bit of bluesy, vaguely hippy music…

Headlining was a two-piece version of Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection. Two likeable young-ish guys, one from Nashville (Sean) and one who lives and works there (by way of Detroit, Spencer).  On a tour of the UK, purveying sensitive folksy-country rock music with a bit of a back-bite. Their set highlighted the individual and collective talents of Sean and Spencer. Intricate guitar-picking, lots of guitar-chord bending, pedal-steel, and songs written by themselves augmented by 1960s tunes from the likes of the Incredible String Band.  Spencer tells the audiences, “I’m always the guy who looks like he’s studying for an exam test in the background.” Hard to imagine a very tall, maybe 6 foot five geezer blending into the background. He told us that, “You can take the guy out of Romford, but you can’t take Romford out of me.”

Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection is very much a homage to the ’60s and ‘70s folk-rock heroes of his UK homeland. During their stay in the Upper Calderdale Valley, Sean and Spencer went out walking up on the Pennines, met a sheep with its head stuck in a plastic bucket, made friends with the farmer, bought vinyl in Todmorden Market from musician, Mel, and fell in love with the Calderdale Valley vibes.

“I wanted to write a very quintessential English folk record, but with really good Nashville players.” Spencer Cullum’s repertoire reminds me very much of bands like Caravan, Trader Horne, Fairport Convention, Traffic, the folk-end of Soft Machine with Kevin Ayers from the late 1960s’ Canterbury-scene, back when I was at the University of Kent. The music is frequently quite peaceful, almost rural-romantic, but with a Byrds-jangle. ‘Jack of Fools’ and the dreamlike ‘The Dusty Floor’ back up Spencer’s comment: “I’ve always wanted to mix krautrock music into folk and psychedelic.”

Spencer has practised hard on pedal-steel and acknowledges his debt to BJ Cole, one of the UK’s most revered pedal-steel players, who has recorded with a staggering range of diverse artists including Elton John, Sting and John Cale, to Beck and Björk.

Spencer has explained that he’s making music in, “…almost in a dreamlike, subconscious state.”

Here’s a link to his earlier recordings for Lagniappe sessions:

Sean Thompson

‘Saturday Drive’:

Sean comes over as an almost archetypal hippy-freak.  You can sense this in this ‘Weird Ears’ track with Spencer on slide guitar out in the car… countrified psychedelic.

We gather that Sean Thompson’s ‘Weird Ears’ is the amusing alto-identity for guitarist Sean Thompson’s solo endeavours. He’s been releasing music under this name since 2019’s bizarrely titled: ‘Time Has Grown a Raspberry’. He’s a complex stylist, with a penchant for the psychedelic that seeps out into his frequent guitar ‘noodling’.

Spencer and Sean were joined on stage for part of the Coin Collection set by local violin-player, Dan. 


Support upstairs was from Bobby Lee

You can see and hear Bobby in these links:

Video link to the Snug sessions:

The set reminded me a bit of John Martyn’s, particularly during his phase of using foot-pedals and stereo-scoping sounds. But Bobby Lee’s band are instrumental maestros, no vocals!

I’d agree with what I’ve read online, namely that, “Bobby Lee trades in a wide screen brand of cosmic country-folk, full of space and pawn shop guitars. There are touches of JJ Cale’s analogue Americana, the swampy groove of Tony Joe White and Richard Thompson’s sinewy, modal guitar work. Amps hum in the warm afternoon sun, kids and dogs snooze on the grass and broken drum machines keep time with the universe…”  

Bobby says that, “ ‘Ancient Sunlight’ is the name I played under between 2015-16 and these are a bunch of recordings I made during that time. Sun-scorched guitars, dubbed-out funk drums, kosmische electronics and stone-washed samples, baked in tape saturation. Bargain- bin primordial gloop.”

Downstairs at the Golden Lion, were Reggie and the Krayfish

I only saw and heard them during the break from the upstairs session and afterwards. But, I’ve learned from their Facebook page that: Reggie and the Krayfish came into being in late 2015 when Paul Sheppard and Mike Shillabeer joined forces again following their collaboration in bands in the 1970s and 80s. Paul has an extensive back catalogue of songs about personal relationships and social comment with recent albums, Resurrection, Trojan Horse and Smoke & Mirrors. Mike has worked for many years with Cliff Speight with recent work entitled Songs From The Heart with songs about reflections on life and social comment.

Reggie and the Krayfish play mostly roots and blues influenced material with guitars in different tunings with slide guitar and harmonica accompaniment. The band uses vocal harmony.” Paul’s daughter Maeve Sheppard has added another voice to their already strong vocal delivery.

Apparently, Reggie and the Krayfish’s set has been made up of material previously written by the band members, but have been telling their audiences that they are pleased to announce that the band is beginning to perform newly written songs too.

This entry was posted on in homepage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.