Review: Steelism at Windmill Brixton

At Steelism’s Windmill gig last night, our reviewer Richard Pearmain discovers a Nashville band that’s far from the usual country rock.

Steelism play at Windmill Brixton. Photo credit: Richard Pearmain
Steelism play at Windmill Brixton. Photo credit: Richard Pearmain

When they’re not busy playing with Nashville starlet Caitlin Rose, Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum Jr have their own little sideline going, in the shape of instrumental group Steelism. Based around Fetzer’s guitar and Cullum’s pedal steel, the duo have just released their debut album, 615 To Fame, and have embarked on their first headline UK tour.

There had been some questions as to whether Steelism would be able to make it, their flight from Nashville having been delayed by an ice storm, but make it they did. The weather in South London may have been somewhat less severe but, in front of a pretty full house, the slightly jetlagged group kicked off a two set show.

They may come from Nashville (although Cullum is originally from Essex), but their sound is not what you’d expect – far from your usual country, they mix up Booker T style R&B, Lalo Schifrin-esque soundtracks and, on Marfa Lights, Neu! inspired motorik. Krautrock country – who knew? The crowd lapped up Fetzer’s fret work, and equally impressive was the way Cullum got his pedal steel to sound like a Hammond organ. Also, during the first part of the set, the group were joined by a second pedal steel player, B.J. Cole, whose own CV is pretty impressive (having played with everyone from Elton John and Elvis Costello to Björk and Depeche Mode).

As well as their own material, Steelism sprinkled a few covers throughout the set, with Apache and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly making an appearance. An old favourite, the reggae tinged version of the Beatles’ Something popped up, as did (for the second time in a week for me, after seeing Matt Berry and David Arnold play it at the Forum) the James Bond theme.

Steelism are due to make an unexpected second visit to the Windmill tonight before heading north, with another London show scheduled for Monday at the Social, so you should try and catch them when you can.