Larkin Poe, Self-Made Man, Tricki-Woo Records
Larkin Poe’s latest album, Self-Made Man, confirms their place at the top table of outstanding young blues/rock artists. Self-produced by the Lovell sisters who hail from Atlanta, Georgia, it exudes confidence, power and an endearing swagger. Coming hot on the heels of Venom and Faith their Grammy nominated (Best Contemporary Blues Album) fourth studio album, Self-Made Man continues with the band’s singular fusion of Southern rock ‘n roll, gospel and blues. It grabs you by the lapels from the first blast of over-driven guitar in the opening title track and dares you to look away while Megan and Rebecca tear their way through eleven original tracks of infectious, mesmerizing southern blues rock, guitars blazing all the way.
Rebecca Lovell takes the lead vocals for the most part, which she does with some aplomb. She’s a fantastic singer, always musical, but able to power her way through the driving rock of her and her sister’s guitars. There are great harmonies too, of course, when Megan joins in singing, in the gospel-inflected Holy Ghost Fire or the sunny pop of Tears of Blue to Gold.
Like Venom and Faith, Self-Made Man is self-produced by Larkin Poe and they’ve developed their own very distinctive style, melding traditional blues, Americana, rock and southern gothic into a pulsating, high energy modern sound, featuring superb musicianship and clever lyrics.
The album shimmers with positivity too, both musically and lyrically. The blues always had that quality of dealing with the tough times and finding a way through and you get that with Larkin Poe too. Megan Lovell said, “This is, in a lot of ways, the first lyrically uplifting record we’ve made. People can go through terrible things. People can weather immeasurable sorrow and hard times, and yet we can still come out on the other side, pull ourselves together, and thrive. This record reflects some of the joy and positivity that we ourselves feel and appreciate.”
The album kicks off with the She’s A Self-Made Man, the guitar riff mirroring the confidence of the lyrics – “baby’s on her way, never coming back” and “for an underdog, I’ve been running high.” The song reflects the journey of the Lovell sisters over the past ten years. It’s a song of empowerment – the rock world may have been a man’s world for a long time, but things are changing and nobody’s gonna hold Larkin Poe back.
We’re then straight into Holy Ghost Fire, one of my favourites on the album, full of gospel testimony and fiery guitar work, not least Megan Lovell’s incendiary slide guitar. This will be an explosive number to hear live. “When you’re going through a tough time, music has the raw power to galvanize your heart and help you rise above your sorrows,” Rebecca says, “Sometimes, you’ve just got to sing.”
Back Down South, featuring Tyler Brant, who contributes some tasty guitar licks, celebrates the sisters’ Southern roots – they hail from Georgia – not least with the Bible-belt inspired lyrics of “my race is run,” “that angel sound,” “may the good Lord show me mercy,” and those “pearly gates.”
God Moves On The Water cleverly takes a Blind Willie Johnson song from 1929 and builds on it, adding a few more verses, but reflecting the Johnson sound in the combined electric and slide guitars. One of the highlights of Larkin Poe’s work over the past few years has been the masterful way they’ve taken old blues songs by people like Skip James and Son House and re-interpreted them for a modern audience. This has been done with due reverence to the genre, but making the songs fresh and upbeat. God Moves On The Water takes this approach a stage further, with the additional lyrical content, all entirely in keeping with the original verse of Johnson’s song. So now, instead of just the one disaster that Johnson sang about – the sinking of the Titanic, we get a flood in Louisiana and an earthquake in San Francisco as well. Listen to Megan Lovell’s slide playing here – quite masterful.
We get a little bit of menace in the Scorpion and Danger Angel, but it’s all part of the way in which the band mixes up the light and dark in a kind of Southern gothic manner. Last year when I interviewed Rebecca and Megan, Rebecca told me, “You know, some of the flavours of our music go from the dark to the light, tabbing some beautiful moments but also some grungy moments. So, it’s trying to represent that light and shadow…”
The album finishes with the jaunty Easy Street, reflecting a hopeful, positive attitude toward what lies ahead. “I’m gonna keep on keeping on.” And why not, when you’re young and talented, making sensational music like this and your star is very much in the ascendancy?
Self-Made Man continues the trajectory Larkin Poe has been on recently, but it sees them move on as well, and establishes them as something of a rock tour-de-force. The music is hard-rockin’, joyous and infectious – and if you ever get the chance to see them live, grab it with both hands. Seeing this material performed live will be something else.
Check out our great interview with Larkin Poe here.