As the saying goes, “like fine wine, some things get better with age”. Add to that list blue jeans, leather boots, cheddar cheese, and pickles. Oh, and the band Larkin Poe.
Larkin Poe is a hybrid blues, roots and rock band originally from north Georgia, but currently based in Nashville. Fronted by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, they are known for their strong southern harmonies, folk influences, and the powerful guitar work of the two sisters. They are currently touring in support of their seventh studio album Blood Harmony, which dropped on November 11 of last year. The tour brought them to Denver’s Ogden Theatre this past Thursday evening.
Over the course of the band’s existence, they have consistently pushed themselves in new and different directions. The result is a series of albums that are consistently stronger than each of their predecessors, and a reputation as a “must see” live band. Blood Harmony is by far their strongest album to date, and Thursday night’s show at the Ogden was nothing short of mind-blowing.
Taking the stage at straight up 9:00 pm, as “White Room” by Cream played over the speakers, the Sisters Lovell sent a loud and clear message by opening with back to back to back rockers from the Blood Harmony album (“Strike Gold”, “Kick The Blues”, and “Summertime Sunset”). They were there to rock, and we were all invited to join in the party. Over the course of the next hour and a half they delivered a 16-song set that held the capacity, and exceptionally boisterous, crowd in rapt attention.
Crowd Note: A BIG shout out to everyone who was at the show in general, and to the Strube family, from Laramie, WY in particular. The Strube delegation crossed three generations, including patriarch Roger, his son Jared, Jared’s wife Kari, and the couple’s eight-year old son Patrick. They drove from Laramie specifically for this show, spent the extra money for the VIP meet and greet experience, and watched the entire show from front row center. Their level of devotion to Larkin Poe might seem a bit extreme, but is far from out of the ordinary. The degree to which Larkin Poe fans embrace this band is both extraordinary, and well-deserved.
Considering that the show was part of the Blood Harmony tour, it’s no surprise that the setlist was heavily weighted to the new album. Eight of the album’s eleven songs were delivered, including the three that opened the show, the beautiful and bluesy “Might As Well Be Me”, rockers “Bad Spell” and “Bolt Cutters & The Family Name”, classic southern rocker “Southern Comfort”, and my personal favorite from the album, the edgy, swampy, stripped-down “Deep Stays Down”.
“Might As Well Be More” showcases Rebecca’s vocal prowess in a way that reminds me of the great Etta James. It’s an instant classic, and one of the finest songs the band has ever done. Noting that the tour is being sponsored by Southern Comfort Whiskey, the members of the band toasted the crowd as they downed shots of that nectar delivered to the stage, before launching into the tune of the same name. “Bolt Cutters…” is one of those driving anthem type rockers that is perfect to close a set with. And “Deep Stays Down”, which was presented as the encore to the base set, was simply electric. The song, which opens the new album, is an absolute masterpiece. Starting with a slow, backwoods Delta Blues vibe, it explodes halfway through into a classic heavy rock jam. Rebecca pounds out riffs while Megan makes her slide scream and seemingly beg for mercy. Awesome.
The remaining eight tunes of the set were live show staples coming from the albums Self Made Man (“Holy Ghost Fire”, “She’s A Self-Made Man”, “Back Down South”), Venom & Faith (“Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues” and “Blue Ridge Mountains”), and Peach (“Preachin’ Blues” and “Wanted Woman – AC/DC”). If you’re familiar with Larkin Poe’s catalog, your reaction to that list would be something along the lines of “Duh – of course”. If you’re new to the band, combining those songs with the new album would make an exceptionally tasty playlist.
The last song from the setlist to call out was the hauntingly beautiful “Mad As A Hatter”. Written by Rebecca when she was just 15 years old, it’s an homage to the sister’s paternal grandfather, who struggled with mental illness for several years before finally being diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s a gorgeous and heartfelt song with deeply emotional lyrics, that has been a standard part of the band’s show setlist for years. But it’s never appeared on any of their studio albums. It was released on their live collaboration (with the Nu Deco Ensemble) album Paint The Roses, in 2020.
The magic of a Larkin Poe show only begins with the amazing music. Yes, both sisters are exceptional players, singers and song writers. But what really makes a Larkin Poe show the event it is, is the authenticity, exuberance, energy, and pure joy Rebecca and Megan bring to the stage. As I was exiting the venue at the end of the night, I heard one of the faithful, a gentlemen who introduced himself as Darren, say that he was amazed at how much fun the two of them seem to be having on stage, how much they seemingly enjoy each other’s company, and how much they seem to genuinely love putting it all on the line for the audience. Ditto. High energy doesn’t begin to describe their stage presence.
Rebecca and Megan have been performing professionally since 2005, when they first launched into the biz as part of the Lovell Sisters, a bluegrass/Americana act with older sister Jessica. Tomorrow, Rebecca turns 32. In May older sister Megan turns 34. That means they’ve been doing this, in one form or another, for more than half of their lives. They’ve clearly realized tremendous success, but it seems a foregone conclusion that their success trajectory is about to launch into hyperdrive. With their talent, and the power of their live performances, that’s the only thing that makes sense.
Story and photos by Rick Witt www.rickwittphotography.com
Great article! Just a little factoid. Out of all thier album’s , videos and performances there are no utterances of profanity. This might sound like a silly little point until you think about it. If one needs profanity to make your point, then your point isn’t really much of a point. Once again, great review.