Larkin Poe — Venom & Faith (Nov. 9, 2018)Location: Calhoun, Georgia ~ Atlanta, GA
Genre: Acoustic Rock, Southern Roots, Blues, Americana, Rock
Album release: November 9, 2018
Record Label: Tricki~Woo Records
01 Sometimes 2:52
02 Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues 3:13
03 Honey Honey 3:29
04 Mississippi (by Larkin Poe feat. Tyler Bryant) 3:39
05 California King 3:18
06 Blue Ridge Mountains 2:51
07 Fly Like an Eagle 2:43
08 Ain’t Gonna Cry 3:33
09 Hard Time Killing Floor Blues 3:13
10 Good and Gone 2:35
℗ 2017 Tricki~Woo Records
•» Rebecca (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano)
•» Megan (harmony vocals, lap steel guitar, dobro)
Review by Steven Ovadia; Score: 9.5/10
••÷ You can find Larkin Poe, aka sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, on YouTube, covering beloved songs, just the two of them on a variety of instruments, in a series they call “Tip ‘o the Hat.” Here they’ll cover anything from Black Sabbath to Son House to Jack White. If the song means anything to either of them, they’ll learn it and perform it to learn more about the song. The performances are amazing, in that they’re able to re~create classic, well~known songs out of minimal instrumentation; usually just their voices, a guitar, and a lap steel. But to remake their beloved songs, they’ll use other tools: hand claps; foot stomps; guitar string scrapes; any technique at their disposal to make a song sound the way it’s supposed to sound. Seeing this work in progress makes you understand why Venom & Faith is such a wonderful album. Like their YouTube covers, on this, their fourth album, they do whatever it takes to create the best, most perfect version of every song.
••÷ One fascinating way they do this is with drum loops. Coming out of Americana, as they do, and given their amazing instrumental prowess, you might not be expecting electronic drums. Yet there they are, making great songs even better. “Honey Honey” has a haunting, simple electronic beat as the Lovells strategically layer guitar and lap steel, the vocals hypnotically alternating between chanting and achingly beautiful melodic hooks. The song deconstructs Americana to craft a great pop song.
••÷ And while this is a beautiful pop album, there are still plenty of lovely traditional Americana touches. “Good and Gone” could be a standard spiritual. A sad beautiful melody from Rebecca is doubled by lap steel from Megan, both eventually joined by a simple foot~stomp of a beat. Organ gradually floats in. And less than three minutes later, the song is over. It could have been written 50 years ago, and it could be sung 50 years from now. It’s classic.
••÷ Venom & Faith isn’t just about the music, though. The lyrics are also often funny, clever, sad, and angry. Many times simultaneously. “California King,” built on a sad banjo riff, is a tale of someone not knowing where they stand in a relationship. It has the best line of the album: “California king size dreams / In a twin bed.” The music, a sampled churning pop beat supporting lyrical lap steel, makes for a cool, trippy track, but thanks to the lyrics, the song could stand on its own as a simple country song (as could any track on the album).
••÷ Larkin Poe have created an album that is intricate without being dense. Amazingly, despite the variety of sounds, textures, and instruments, the entire thing is performed by just the two of them (except for one guest appearance by slide guitarist Tyler Bryant). It took me a few listens to figure out Venom & Faith is a pop album. But not a pop album like something from Ariana Grande. Rather a pop album from a band that’s listened to and covered hundreds of great pop songs from the past two centuries, and understands all of the big things that make a song great, but also all of the little things. Venom & Faith is two Americana artists pushing expectations to create something both familiar but also innovative. Not many artists could pull off what they’ve done here. ••÷ http://bluesrockreview.com/
Written By Hal Horowitz // November 7, 2018 // Score: 4/5
• This isn’t your basic Stevie Ray Vaughan~styled blistering blues rock. It’s far more primal, malicious, and unsettling.
• Bluesy fireworks start immediately as you push play on Larkin Poe’s follow~up to 2017’s well~received Peach. The cover of Bessie Jones’ “Sometimes” kicks off as Rebecca Lovell’s husky voice blasts out above handclaps and percussion sounding like the funkiest prison chain~gang mantra you’ve ever heard. Slowly, staccato horns add to the mysterious effect, with a snare drumline punching home the beat. The track draws an early line in the sand for the Lovell sisters (Megan plays lap steel), setting the bar for a rip~roaring set of proudly tough, gritty, tense Southern blues.
• Every song is powered by romping, stomping beats, pushing into the philosophical red zone. Even when the tone is dampened on the introspective, stripped~down gospel ballad “Ain’t Gonna Cry” and the haunting, snakelike swamp of “Honey Honey,” the effect is chilling, edgy and evocative. There’s a sing~along chorus waiting to explode in front of a live audience wherever you land. On “California King,” it’s “I’ve got a funny feeling, honey is it all in my head?”; on the spooky “Fly Like an Eagle” (not the Steve Miller hit), it’s the title, as a creepy slide hovers in the background over techno bass. And on the alliterative “Beach Blonde Bottle Blues,” Rebecca howls, “Ooh, ooh, child, watcha’ gonna’ do,” just urging the audience to shout it back as Megan sizzles on slide.
• A spine~tingling version of Skip James’ “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues,” the second of only two covers, shows how historically deep the duo goes to tap into their inspiration. Megan’s sensual guitar slithers and crawls as the percussion clomps, punctuating the darkness inherent in the lyrics. Tyler Bryant guests on resonator guitar for the ominous “Mississippi,” but the vast majority of the album’s instrumentation is provided by the Lovells.
• This isn’t your basic Stevie Ray Vaughan~styled blistering blues rock. It’s far more primal, malicious, and unsettling. The siblings cover themselves in the Delta mud, clawing through the mosquito~infested woods with sounds that get under your skin and stay there. The set closes with the gospel~ized death ditty “Good and Gone,” as Rebecca hums and chants the melody over eerie pounding.
• The album is finished a scant 32 heart~pulsating minutes after it started, but nothing is rushed. Rather, the Lovell sisters have opened the door to a dark, bluesy, portentous worldview, something sinister and threatening even in its lightest moments. It’s like little else out there, so hang on tight and join them. • https://americansongwriter.com/
About Larkin Poe
|||→ Southern roots rockers Larkin Poe formed after the Lovell Sisters called it a day in 2009. The Lovell Sisters, a bluegrass Americana trio comprised of siblings Rebecca, Megan, and Jessica Lovell, had started performing professionally in 2005 when all three sisters were still in their teens. The group released two independent albums and toured the festival circuit regularly before Jessica stepped away and the group disbanded in 2009. Rebecca (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano) and Megan (harmony vocals, lap steel guitar, dobro) regrouped a year later in 2010 as Larkin Poe, named after the sisters’ great~great~great~grandfather, who was a distant cousin of writer Edgar a bit edgier and rockier than the Lovell Sisters, Larkin Poe’s electric and slide guitar riffs earned them the title of “little sisters of the Allman Brothers” among fans and followers. In 2010, the group independently released a quartet of EP’s corresponding to each of the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. A fifth EP, 2011’s Thick as Thieves and a DVD, Live from Stongfjorden (2012) preceded the release of Kin, their debut full~length in 2014. This would prove to be a banner year for Larkin Poe with acclaimed U.K. performances at the Glastonbury Festival and London’s O2 Arena, as well as participation in producer T. Bone Burnett’s project Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. A revamped edition of Kin — titled Reskinned — was scheduled for release from Universal Records in the summer of 2016. ~ Steve Leggett