Inventive Larkin Poe: massive grooves, talent

One of a kind: Larkin Poe duo has singularly great album: “Self Made Man.”

Larkin Poe are not a rare type of band. They’re a first.

Megan and Rebecca Lovell began causing a stir with younger sister Jessica 16 years ago as the beaming, teenaged Lovell Sisters, strumming and picking mightily at bluegrass and other acoustic Americana music. Raised in a home flooded with everything from Son House to the Louvin Brothers to the Allman Brothers, and all the way to Black Sabbath, the siblings were exceptionally enriched.

When Jessica bowed out, Megan and Rebecca regrouped as Larkin Poe, named after their great, great, great grandfather, a cousin to Edgar Allan Poe. They set out not to break through boundaries but to fuse them with songs steeped in America’s rural Southern past, but filled with more tough, piercing hooks than an angler’s tackle box. Ten years, five EPs, and five albums later, they’re wowing audiences with their massive grooves, equally massive talents, and obvious delight in it all.

As in their performances, previous Larkin Poe albums have been shot through with inventive arrangements of traditional blues. “Self Made Man” bursts with extraordinary Lovell songs, nearly exclusively. Unlike their ancestor, they present nothing truly mysterious, but like him, they can surely write hauntingly. While fearlessly ignoring gender, “She’s a Self-Made Man” mashes the blues with the hammer of Led Zeppelin, the conviction of faith, and the drive to succeed.

That the wicked, foot-stomping abandon in “Holy Ghost Fire” elicits deep thought about personal searching, points to the sisters’ maturity as authors. Musically, Megan’s greasy lap slide guitar and Rebecca’s forceful leads and passion-fired singing all fly on metronomic rhythms as real and robust as an Olympian’s heartbeat.

“Keep Diggin’” crackles with slippery, intoxicating rhythms, underscoring a rant about the regrettably all too familiar issue of backbiting, and fake news. “Back Down South” then celebrates Little Richard, Charlie Daniels and The Allman Brothers Band, and is evocative of the dusty roads of the Carolinas and Georgia, but with shiny new technique. “Every Bird That Flies” implies freedom, but the music is full of foreboding. But pure pop music drives the hand-clappin’ “Tears of Blue to Gold,” the point of view that of a child growing up in the South, and dreaming of Elvis. Colorful dichotomy like that flows naturally within each song, and from one song to the next, throughout “Self Made Man.”

With this stunning album, Larkin Poe has arrived on the big stage.      

-Tom Clarke

Larkin Poe
‘Self Made Man’
Label:
Tricki Woo Records
Release: June 12, 2020

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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