Larkin Poe shove cock-rock out of the way with their upcoming LP Self Made Man. The Grammy-nominated duo pack their fourth studio album with unadulterated power. The multi-instrumentalist sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell, strut their musicality while firmly rooting their sound in Southern rock ‘n roll. Infusing Self Made Man with gospel and blues, Larkin Poe reinvent musical tradition to trumpet their standpoints.
The quasi-title track “She’s a Self-Made Man” is as classic as it is tough. The riotous guitar riffs are heavy and thunderous, summoning the energy of the 1970s rock era. Megan’s background vocals alleviate the weight and her harmony threads the blues through the rock ‘n’ roll. Her slide guitar solo is raw, while Rebecca’s vocals echo a palpable fortitude. Larkin Poe use the track to centralize their agency, aligning themselves to “a cannonball, moving down the track”. The track is laden with confidence and power, affirming Larkin Poe as absolute badasses. With its gender twist, “She’s a Self-Made Man” is Larkin Poe’s clear declaration to stop comparing their music to male predecessors and contend with the duo on their terms.
Larkin Poe’s grit magnifies as the album unfolds. “Scorpion” and “Every Bird That Flies” are both founded on blues-rock, indelibly finding affinity with goddess led bands such as the Pretenders and Heart. “Keep Diggin‘” finds Larkin Poe attempting to regain control from insidious gossip. Whereas the instrumentation is as hard-line as “She’s a Self-Made Man”, the handclaps in “Keep Diggin”’ render it as more playful. But the swagger is indisputable, especially when they sing, “You know they talkin’ that trash gotta go pick it up / Who’s lyin’ to who, they lain’ too much.” Likewise, “Back Down South”, featuring Tyler Brant, billows until the tempo slows down to clear the way for a glorious guitar solo. The reduction of the instruments and vocals pays tribute to artists such as Little Richard and Charlie Daniel, who were often given musical space to showcase their virtuosity mid-track. In doing so, Larkin Poe avows their Southern rock ‘n roll roots.
Similarly, gospel music and spirituality are evident throughout Self Made Man. They cover Blind Willie Johnson’s 1929 hit “God Moves on the Water”. The song portrays the massive loss of lives after the Titanic sunk in 1912. Larkin Poe reiterates Johnson’s use of churchly vocal intonations to underscore the use of spirituality to recover after a tragedy. Johnson was a preacher, so of course, turning to religion was a surefire way for him to find relief. Yet Larkin Poe doesn’t need God to heal; they just need music. “Holy Ghost Fire” relies on the gospel tradition to find renewal despite the struggle. The exclamation, “sing, baby sing, let your sorrow pass by / Lift our voices with the smoke, rising higher”, offers music as the ultimate healing power rather than a divine entity. The secularity is slyly subversive, indeed.
On the album’s press release, Rebecca mentions, “Life is all about balance…Sometimes it’s sweet; sometimes it’s sour.” And the album certainly does demarcate the space between troubled and peaceful times. “Ex-Con”, for instance, exhibits the “hard-living / empty as a bottle” life of a prisoner who seeks atonement from his crimes. The redemption doesn’t arrive in that track, yet it does manifest in “Easy Street”. The track denotes the arrival of jubilance after the immeasurable sorrow caused by “working hard / putting miles on my own two feet”. Ending the album with “Easy Street” concretizes Larkin Poe’s purpose in reminding listeners that joy is obtainable despite the seemingly endless turmoil.
Larkin Poe suspended touring due to the social distancing limitations imposed by COVID-19. For the time being, they’re playing a series of live streams, dubbed “Home Sweet Home”. Proceeds benefit the United Way Nashville, a region that was only beginning to recover from the devastating March 2020 tornado when the pandemic hit. Larkin Poe’s album and “Home Sweet Home” will acclimate listeners to the duo’s adroit musical caliber. Their upfront blues-rock glide will slay.