Lagniappe (la ·gniappe) noun ‘lan-ˌyap,’ — 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.
Last November, Spencer Cullum sauntered over from the side stage and placed before us his lustrous debut, Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection. The UK-born, pedal steel aficionado assembled a merry group of maestros (including Erin Rae, Caitlin Rose, and Sean Thompson) to crossbreed a Nashville/Brit-folk flavor base with the perfect pinch of Krautrock spice. The album gets a second release this September, along with a newly shared bonus track, “Seaside” — until then, allow us to present Cullum & Co.’s debut Lagniappe Session.
Not one to avoid earnestly exploring the sounds of his influences, Cullum reached into the overflowing 60s/70s British folk bag, proffering three selections from pillars of the era in Kevin Ayers, Trees, and Bridget St. John. These deft reinterpretations are patient and affecting, each take heightened by Rae’s truly fine vocal accompaniments. Overt respect to the forebears. Dig Cullum’s thoughts on each selection, below.
I first heard Kevin Ayers’ Joy of A Toy when I was 17 years old. Soft Machine were the gateway to discovering Ayers’ music, and with him in that band I always thought there was this whimsical pop sound to their music that went away after he left (although Soft Machine 3 is truly a masterpiece, too). I read that back in the day he would flee to Ibiza and head off into the sun to escape the pressures of touring. As someone that could never do that I was rather envious. Nonchalant, cheeky and almost selfishly carefree–just like his music. This track features Brighton folk musician Hollow Hand and long time Coin collaborator Erin Rae on harmony vocals.
Sean Thompson (Coin Collection guitarist) showed me the Trees album, The Garden of Jane Delawney when we first started playing music together a few years ago. I was floored, and also disappointed, that I discovered them so late (we’ve all been there before). Since I started making this kind of music I’ve always been intrigued with blending folk music with a Krautrock, motorik beat, and this song felt like it was a great composition to combine that circular sound with a traditional folk timbre. They live hand in hand together.
Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection :: Barefeet and Hot Pavements (Bridget St. John)
I started playing this song on repeat when we was locked away in quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic in Nashville. I was really missing London, and growing up in a city, and wandering around old haunts. Ask Me No Questions, by Bridget St. John, was a record I discovered when I was trying to find as much pedal steel music in pop records while I was learning the steel guitar. It has some beautiful playing by Gordon Huntley. I hope you don’t mind my dogs barking at the postman in the background for this recording — I always thought it added a nice secluded touch to the track. They are always making appearances in a lot of the overdubs I do.