“It’s easy to love this duo’s brand of barnstorming blues.”
Larkin Poe are the Lovell sisters from Atlanta, Georgia. “I’m not Larkin, and she’s not Poe,” quipped Rebecca Lovell during their sold-out gig at Inchyra Arts Club near Perth, Scotland. Larkin Poe, rather, is an ancestor of the sisters and relative of the famed author Edgar Allan Poe. Rebecca and Megan, formally trained musically, got into bluegrass in their teens and, after forming the band, have developed their own distinctive sound which is a unique blues-based Americana rock. Adept at taking traditional blues and bringing them bang up-to-date at the same time, the pair are exceptional musicians, wonderful singers and high-powered performers. And, as we discovered in an interview with Larkin Poe before the gig – thoroughly nice people, who give thoughtful consideration to the roots tradition that underpins their music.
The band played at a most unusual venue – a refurbished cattle byre in a sprawling country estate in Scotland, Inchyra Arts Club. With a vaulted timber roof, hard wood floors and original wood used wherever possible, it’s got great acoustics and can pack in around 600 people. It’s a unique, welcoming space and made for a great atmosphere to welcome the Lovell sisters and their band.
Broadcaster Lins Honeyman, from The Gospel Blues Train radio show and I had the opportunity to interview Larkin Poe and then attend the gig. Here’s what we learned:
- This was a performance full of energy, passion and joy from the opening Trouble in Mind (not the traditional version, by any means!) to the glorious Robert Johnson Come On In My Kitchen The Lovell sisters and the two other members of their band didn’t hold back throughout the whole captivating set. They seemed to be enjoying it just as much as the packed crowd, with smiles aplenty from the duo and plenty of chit-chat to engage the audience from live-wire Rebecca.
- Walking through the audience while playing scorching lap steel slide guitar is quite a trick and one which Megan Lovell pulled off with some aplomb, much to the delight of the Inchrya fans, who quickly whipped out their mobile phones to record and photograph. I’ve only seen this done a few times, most notably Buddy Guy – and it sure is a crowd pleaser.
- As I listened to Venom and Faith (the band’s latest acclaimed album) in the safe confines of my car, I tried to categorize it – is it blues, Americana, rock or even at times pop? In the full throttle, ear-bending cauldron of Inchyra Arts Club, with the hair-flinging, guitar-slinging, leather-jacketed Rebecca, and the searing sounds of Meghan’s slide guitar, there was no doubt that this was rock music. Blues-infused, genuine, old-fashioned, full-bodied, head-banging, modern rock. Glorious.
- The banjo can hold its head up in a rock concert. Yes, really. It featured in two songs, fully amped up, California King and John the Revelator, with a banjo solo taking pride of place in the latter. In the middle of all this high-energy, full-throated rock concert, we get a banjo solo!
- Megan Lovell is a terrific slide guitarist. A classically-trained violinist, she took up playing slide guitar as a teenager and, boy, she can make that thing sing. Nothing like some lap steel slide to conjure up the ghosts of the old Delta blues masters.
- You can successfully talk about something serious in a rock concert. Before launching in to Mad as Hatter, Rebecca Lovell appealed for a more sympathetic attitude toward mental illness, and dementia in particular, talking about her own family experience. For those of us who have seen the devastating effects of dementia in their family, it was really something to hear:
Time is a thief
It’ll steal into bed and rob you while you sleep
You’ll never feel it
It pulls off the covers, and rifles through your head
Then you’ll wait to find you can’t remember what you just said.
- Larkin Poe is firmly underpinned by the blues. They played Leadbelly’s Black Betty, Son House’s Preachin’ Blues, Willie Johnson’s John the Revelator and the superbly reworked Hard Time Killing Floor Blues from Skip James. The band is respectful of the tradition, but not bound by it and their versions of these classic songs are some of the very best I’ve heard.
If you can ever get to Scotland, be sure and make you way to the Inchyra Arts Club. More importantly, check out the incredibly talented Larkin Poe.