Self Made Man

Larkin Poe

Tricki Woo Records, 2020

http://www.larkinpoe.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/18/2021

Sometimes It’s a challenge to suss out a group’s musical forebears, and sometimes it isn’t. If Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks made an album of Black Keys covers in a studio with the lights down low and the amps turned all the way up, there’s a decent chance it would come out sounding something like Larkin Poe, a sister duo making big-boned, slide-heavy, electrified Southern blues-rock that aims to shake your foundations.

Larkin Poe is Rebecca Lovell (lead vocals, guitar, keys) and Megan Lovell (lap steel guitar, background vocals), with support from Kevin McGowan on drums. Tarka Layman adds bass on three tracks and Tyler Bryant plays guitar on his co-write “Back Down South,” but the focus throughout is on the Lovell sisters up front, who play and sing big and loud from the very first note. The way the two work together is almost intuitive, with Rebecca supplying powerhouse rhythm guitar and soulful lead vocals while Megan delivers slide guitar lines so fluid and expressive that they function as almost a co-lead vocal at times. This is music with muscle and spirit, made by a pair of strong young women with a nearly supernatural musical connection.

The title cut establishes the atmosphere in the first two minutes. “Self Made Man” isn’t so much a gender bender as a throwdown challenge to the patriarchy: “Like it or not I don’t give a damn / Lord have mercy I’m a self made man,” set to thundering guitar that oozes confidence and swagger. The sisters’ affection for ’70s hard rock surfaces again with “Holy Ghost Fire,” which feels like it borrows something—a couple of notes here, an echo of the vocal melody there—from Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla.” (Whatever their source of inspiration, it’s a dynamo of a song.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Batting third, “Keep Diggin’” locates a delicious groove, with a percussive backdrop framing a tune with a sharp, playful edge. Then “Back Down South” delivers dark, intense Black Keys-adjacent blues-rock as the ladies pay raucous tribute to musical heroes including Little Richard and James Brown. “God Moves On The Water” has a similar vibe, while in between “Tears Of Blue And Gold” brings a joyous, chugging early rock feel, complete with handclaps and more than a touch of gospel in its bones as Rebecca sings “Tupelo, rest my soul / Take me to the river / I’ve been delivered.”

Highlights the rest of the way include the boogie-tinged “Scorpion,” the pulsing thump of “Danger Angel,” and the closing one-two punch of “Ex-Con” (deliberate and pointed) and “Easy Street” (soaring and celebratory). The latter pair is where I whacked my forehead after realizing who Rebecca’s lead vocals remind me of most: Susan Tedeschi. That, friends, is one hell of a compliment.

Larkin Poe got on my radar with a series of lockdown covers recorded at home with just the two sisters and posted on social media; the Lovells bringing their unique spin to a series of familiar classic rock tunes reeled me right in. This album of originals serves to emphasize just how committed they are to that very specific, slide-heavy Southern blues-rock sound, which makes perfect sense when half of your band of two plays lap steel almost exclusively.

Larkin Poe inhabits that sound like a second skin and the album’s production—also by Rebecca and Megan—keeps everything big: lead vocals, harmonies and guitars especially, but also bass and drums. It all sounds super-sized, as if you took a Tedeschi Trucks Band album and produced it like AC/DC’s Highway To Hell. Self Made Man presents Larkin Poe at their primal, swaggering best, an exploding transformer box of Muscle Shoals-flavored blues-rock.

Rating: A-

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