If by chance you haven’t come across Larkin Poe before now then, in a nutshell, they are two charming and talented musicians from Georgia who have been creating a lot of complimentary noise in recent years due to their energetic and individual take on the blues. I caught them at the Black Deer Festival in 2019 and instantly fell in love with their sound.
Like many other musicians stuck in their home studios due to Covid, the Lovell sisters put up regular postings of the two of them bashing through some of their favourite rock and pop songs. This prompted the idea to record a selection of covers for fans who lapped up their online output. These, understandably, are stripped down – but nicely arranged – versions of some of their favourite tunes. Imagine you and a friend have got the guitars out and are busking through some of the old classics, then imagine you can both sing like angels and one of you plays a lap steel guitar with superb melodic fluidity, then you’ll have an idea of what the deal is here. While the sisters are equal partners in their projects, the lap steel guitar playing of eldest sister Megan really shines out in the bare arrangements of these songs, high and handsome in the mix. She coaxes a really nice fat tone from her guitar that makes every solo break and adornment pure aural pleasure.
The album starts with a short snatch of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail”, which was probably there as a little jest to fool folk that they were going down a traditional blues route. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly away” follows, driven by open-tuned acoustic guitars and slide playing, over which, particularly on the chorus, the harmonies shine out with that magic blend of timbres that is characteristic of sibling vocal partnerships (if they aren’t tone deaf of course). To be honest, the song structures don’t deviate dramatically from the songs you know and love; however, you probably haven’t heard them played so purely and with such distinctive lap steel accompaniment – Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World” being an example of this, a number played with a wistful air.
One song that is given more of a makeover is the Elvis hit “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” which kicks off with a strident melody on the lap steel and a feel that is reminiscent of Santo & Jonny (if they had written the score for a western). The sisters play around with the melody, inserting a change to use a minor chord at one point that adds a poignancy to the lyrics that is not there in the original.
In “Nights In White Satin” the harmonies are just glorious on the “because I love you” part and the slide playing really beautiful throughout. Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” is more typical Larkin Poe territory, while “Ramblin’ Man” and “Bell Bottom Blues” are played pretty straight. “Crocodile Rock” at the end is neatly arranged as a gentle country rocker.
It’s not breaking any musical boundaries but the album is a really delightful interpretation of familiar songs, giving them a fresh overhaul, while displaying the talents of two engaging musicians that I, for one, hope to see more of when live music returns in all its glory.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle paws – a Wonderful album it’s not breaking any musical boundaries but is a really delightful interpretation of familiar songs
Hellhound On My Trail (Robert Johnson)
Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz)
Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young)
(You’re The) Devil In Disguise (Elvis Presley)
In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins)
Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues)
Who Do You Love (Bo Diddley)
Take What You Want (Post Malone)
Ramblin’ Man (The Allman Brothers)
Bell Bottom Blues (Derek & The Dominoes
Crocodile Rock (Elton John)