November 18, 2017
Larkin Poe – Peach
Peach is an album that Blues aficionados will approach with caution. Reworking Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell songs is a dangerous business. However, the Lovell sisters do a great job, in fact I’m contrite for even doubting them. The renditions are hard-hitting and memorable.
The album includes five Blues covers and showcases Larkin Poe’s understanding of the genre with their energetic, sympathetic and passionate interpretations. If you add five fire-breathing Indie-flecked originals, you have a fine collection.
Larkin Poe comprises multi-instrumentalists Rebecca and Megan Lovell, Kevin McGowan (drums) and Tarka Layman (bass). Despite performing for some time then Larkin Poe is a relatively recent incarnation (2014). The story goes that after putting a few Blues videos online to a vociferous crowd they responded by recording an album of original compositions and Blues covers. What is clear is that they love the songs and have the authenticity and raw emotion to be convincing in producing Mississippi Delta and Southern standards.
Rebecca’s vocals have depth and presence; Megan sings harmony whilst coaxing mesmerising sounds out of her Rickenbacker Lap Steel. It is the masterful arrangements and high production values, which take this record to the next level. This is demonstrated on their own composition “Freedom”. A simple Rock riff starts proceedings and then the fuzzed-up drum and bass beat joins whilst a vocal chant completes the rhythm. The production separates every sound perfectly with the most important sounds are up front in the mix. “Black Betty” arrives with a North Mississippi Allstars type of arrangement. Instead of Luther we hear Megan tear up a storm. It was always an unstoppable song and certainly no brakes are applied here.
Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues” is played out against a thunderous back beat. The words never fail to have an impact – “I’m going to be a preacher, so that I don’t have to work”. If “re-imagining” is the right description then the original’s message remains intact whilst sounding very 21st Century.
“John The Revelator” would stop traffic it is so good. Rebecca’s slow vocals over an eerie backing nails the standard. It’s here that the quality of her voice shows its interpretative skills as she sits above a multi-handclap rhythm whilst an excoriating guitar clears a path.
The album finishes with an Alan Lomax-sourced 1959 cover of a prisoner gang song – “Tom Devil”. Very much a call and response refrain. There’s no cherry picking the hits by these two.
This is a great Blues Rock album. Kudos!