4 out of 5 stars
In case anyone forgot where Larkin Poe (sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell) derived their rugged, red clay rocking from, the opening track, “Deep Stays Down,” with its stripped-down slithering slide guitar and skeletal drums, reminds us of their earthy roots.
The song could be plucked from any one of a number of Delta originators of the form. But just as you’re settling in to the edgy, ominous, swampy blues, electric guitars come crashing down at 2:25, bringing the duo’s terse attack into the red.
That’s where the needle stays for the majority of the following 11 tracks. Take some insistent Black Keys riffing in “Kick the Blues,” add ZZ Top’s scuzzy boogie evident in the raw guitar of “Bolt Cutters & the Family Name” and some of Rory Gallagher’s blue-collar thunder found in “Strike Gold,” then mash them together for tough, tensile, frills-free crunch.
The sisters sound like the road-hardened veterans they are. Rebecca’s lead vocals are (almost) as strong, sassy, and swaggering as anything short of Chrissy Hynde. The two guitars clatter and crash with a communal throbbing punch and when they hit their stride on the thumping “Southern Comfort,” it’s clear these women are the new face of gutsy blues rock, equal and better than many dudes populating the genre. You can take me out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of me, snarls Rebecca as Megan injects her bottleneck calisthenics in the aforementioned “Bolt Cutters.”
Rebecca goes Etta James, getting emotionally hurt on the oozing “Might as Well Be Me,” as Megan’s snakelike lines, similar at times to those of Derek Trucks, urge her on in the torchy slow blues. The closing “Lips As Cold As Diamond” returns us to the stark opening dusky bayou, leaving the listener on a spooky note.
It’s a fitting finish to a roaring, impassioned set that leaves no doubt about who the queens of contemporary Southern blues rock are, and will likely stay, for the foreseeable future.
Photo credit: Jason Stoltzfus / Big Hassle