Larkin Poe | Kindred Spirits | (Tricki-Woo)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
While this pandemic has created havoc with all genres of entertainment, it has hit roots blues and folk musicians particularly hard. But some of those who saw their touring income evaporate have used this time to craft fresh music that may never have existed if they had been touring in 2020.
The Lovell sisters (Rebecca and Megan) of Larkin Poe are a prime example. They had already released Self Made Man in May but then hunkered down with just two guitars and an occasional drum machine, to churn out ten covers of pop classics and semi-classics. They applied their rootsy spin for creative arrangements to songs most blues and classic rock fans know well in their original versions. If the album feels loose and comfortable, it’s because the sisters have been consistently working up covers of songs on their YouTube channel since 2015. So the idea to officially commit some to disc is a natural extension of a concept they have been honing for a while.
It’s a diverse, eclectic assortment that runs from one contemporary track (an unexpected take on Post Malone/Ozzy Osbourne’s “Take What You Want”) to classic rock (Derek & the Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues”) and rock and roll oldies (Elvis’ “[You’re the] Devil in Disguise,” Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”). While every version is recognizable, Larkin Poe takes liberties with the presentation, slowing down Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” to almost a sweet ballad and transforming Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World” to a touching folk song far removed from Young’s initial vision but just as powerful and arguably more so.
Larkin Poe are blues rockers at heart. When they convert Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” into a bluesy lope, the change seems both natural and logical. A romp through The Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin’ Man” brings the country aspect of it to the forefront with Megan’s ever-present slide which injects a bluegrass feel to Dickie Betts’ most commercially successful tune. The ghostly atmospherics they highlight on the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” makes what was once a heavily orchestrated song into a honeyed, somewhat, well moody treatise on love.
If these raw covers, performed with only a few mostly unplugged guitars and two voices, prove anything it’s that a great song can not just withstand being stripped down to its essence, but may actually be enhanced by that approach. It also helps that Rebecca’s tough and tender lead singing infuses gritty and sublime soul to this material.
At under 35 minutes, this is on the frustratingly short side, especially since Larkin Poe had recorded so many other tunes over the past five years that could have been reproduced here. Regardless, this is a wonderful romp, the sisters are clearly having fun, and interpreting top notch material to fit the Larkin Poe style is a productive way to kill time during a pandemic. If the vaccine takes too long to get distributed, perhaps we can get another volume.