The dramatic fall in physical album and single sales in recent years has represented a huge challenge for musicians on how to just get by and survive. Many have turned to selling merchandise and trying to capitalize on live shows, which unfortunately have also been practically wiped out during the global Covid-19 lockdown. But every cloud has a silver lining and for music lovers one big positive is that – through YouTube channels and other social media - musicians are brought closer to us as they seek to both monetize their viewings and maintain close contact with their fans.
Nashville Tennessee-based blues band Larkin Poe, comprising of the enormously talented sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, have just released an outstanding new album, Self-Made Man (12 June 2020; on their own Tricki-Woo Records), and would under normal circumstances be on tour to promote it, but instead – to our great fortune - they are posting videos detailing exactly how they write tunes, what motivates them when they go into the studio, and even how to play their songs on guitar. Larkin Poe are not only producing great music but they are at the forefront of how bands might perhaps be working in the future – and they are clearly putting their hearts into what they do and having a lot of fun while doing it.
“We have managed to stay very busy in quarantine…” says Megan, “we were supposed to be on a big European tour, so it is quite a different scene to what we were expecting, but we have shifted focus to connecting with people online.” “… It’s been a lot of fun to challenge ourselves to connect in a different way,” agrees Rebecca, as she explains how she can feel paralyzed when writing songs, and then laughs out loud when she confesses that she sometimes forgets her own lyrics while singing on stage. “My recall of lyrics sucks!” she explains, with a giggle and a shriek.
Like their last album, Self Made Man is self produced, with the sisters only aided in the studio by skilled engineer Roger Alan Nichols. They play nearly all the instruments themselves and seek to keep their songs as stripped down as possible, in order to most clearly define the ‘Larkin Poe sound’. One element of their unique delivery comes from Megan’s 1950s Rickenbacker lap steel, while Rebecca continues to rely on her beloved Fender:“Specifically right now I’m a Strat guy, I have one that is called Buttermilk, it is a 1960s style guitar with humbucker pickups, which is fairly unusual, but it is a really sweet little axe. I love it to death,” she says.
The lead single, She’s a Self Made Man, kicks off the album, and it is a stormer. “Baby’s on her way, she’s not coming back…” Rebecca intones with her powerful voice, “Like it or not, I don’t give a damn.” The song represents the ‘lipstick and Dr. Martens boots’ approach that Rebecca favours and is a strong reaffirmation of Larkin Poe’s musical philosophy. As she herself says: “if you’re not going to kick down the door, why go into the room?”
Fire and Brimstone are never too far away when Larkin Poe are in town and so it is fitting that the next track up on the album is the rocking Holy Ghost Fire. “Burn, burn baby burn, with that holy ghost fire, from your fingers to the frets, gonna testify,” Rebecca sings. The younger Lovell sister invests a lot personally in writing lyrics and has clearly grown as a songwriter on each new Larkin Poe offering.
The track Keep diggin’ is “about gossip… the women in our family have taught us how to stick our noses in where it does not belong,” laughs Rebecca during her explanation of the song. It is worth noting that the video that supports this tune represents something entirely new for the band, and may signal how they develop their visual side in the future. On the other hand Back Down South, with Tyler Bryant (Rebecca’s husband), finds the sisters back in ‘selling their soul to the devil’ blues territory, and is another testament to the fusion of great lyrics and driving music that makes the band one of the best acts around.
Larkin Poe are the real deal and Self Made Man is further confirmation that they plan to keep their music ‘lean, mean and dirty’. They have their own distinct sound, break new territory with each step, and are having a lot of fun while they do it. All we have to do is share in their joy and, especially right now, that’s not a bad place for any of us to be.