Larkin Poe Return With Energetic Blues, Roots and Southern Rock Sound on New Album

Since I came across Larkin Poe a few years ago, I’ve been impressed with their energetic brand of blues, roots and southern rock. Not only are Rebecca Lovell  and her slightly older sister Megan Lovell great songwriters, but they are also really talented musicians and sing together in perfect harmony. All of these qualities once again shine on their new album Blood Harmony, which appeared on Friday, November 11.

Originally hailing from Georgia, the Nashville-based duo has been making music as Larkin Poe since 2010. They started out as teenagers with their eldest sister Jessica Lovell in a bluegrass/Americana formation called The Lovell Sisters, who put out two albums. Blood Harmony, released via their own Tricki-Woo Records, is their sixth studio effort as Larkin Poe. That’s a quite remarkable recording career for the two artists who are in their early 30s.

Rebecca (left) and Megan Lovell

From a May 19 press release announcing the album and its first single: Blood Harmony affirms Larkin Poe as an essential force in shaping the identity of Southern rock ‘n’ roll, breathing new energy into the genre with both forward-thinking perspective and a decidedly feminine strength. In a departure from the self-contained approach of past albums like 2020’s Self Made Man [which I previously reviewed here] Larkin Poe co-produced the new album alongside Texas-bred musician Tyler Bryant (also Rebecca’s husband).

With Megan handling harmony vocals, lap steel, and resonator guitar and Rebecca on guitar and keys, Larkin Poe also enlisted members of their longtime live band, including drummer Kevin McGowan and bassist Tarka Layman. Mainly recorded at Rebecca and Tyler’s home studio, the result is an electrifying new work that fully harnesses the fiery vitality they’ve shown in touring across the globe, imbuing their songs with equal parts soulful sensitivity and thrilling ferocity.

Let’s take a closer look at some songs. Here’s the lead single Bad Spell, credited to the sisters and Bryant. From the above press release: “Ever since I heard ‘I Put a Spell on You’ by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for the first time I’ve wanted to write a female response to it,” says Rebecca Lovell. “I’d had the title ‘Bad Spell’ in my journal for years, and it was so fun to create a song where the riffs and guitar tones have that singular purpose of nastiness and swagger.” This sounds pretty badass!

Georgia Off My Mind is a tune about chasing one’s dreams and what gets left behind. Co-written by Rebecca Lovell and Bryant, it was released as the album’s second single on August 23. “Like 99 percent of my songs, that song came into being at my kitchen table late in the evening,” Rebecca explained. “My husband and I stumbled into that line at the chorus – ‘Tennessee keep Georgia off my mind’ – and it turned into a love song for the stretch of I-24 that connects Atlanta and Nashville, which is a drive we’ve made thousands of times now.” Cool southern rocker!

Strike Gold, which the two sisters wrote together, is a defiant tune about finding the way on one’s own terms. “After years of being out on the road, this song feels emotionally anthemic,” Rebecca noted. “Shoutout to all the good souls out there who keep showing up for their dreams, even when the goin’ gets tough.” Strike Gold also first appeared as a single on October 5. Another sizzling blues rock tune!

Here’s the title track, co-written by Rebecca Lovell, Bryant and McGowan, which “came together after Megan and our mom and I all read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, which is about the ways we perceive the passage of time,” Rebecca said. “There was just something about the sweetness of all three of us reading the same book, and then being able to talk about how it related to our love for each other and our love for music. Of all the songs I’ve ever written, I’m particularly proud of this one.”

Let’s do one more: Might as Well Be Me, another co-write by the sisters. The soulful southern rock ballad sets a welcome contrast to the otherwise mostly uptempo hard-charging album.

Blood Harmony, which based on other reviews I’ve seen, has been received very positively, and rightfully so! If you’re into blues, roots and southern rock, I can highly recommend it. Following is a Spotify link to the album.

The last word shall belong to Megan and Rebecca Lovell, who summed up their fine new work as follows: “When steering by your own stars, you never quite know where you’re going to wind up. Our true north is unique to us, and in following our true north without compromise, we have been out freewheeling this world on the ride of our lives. And it still feels like just the beginning. Blood Harmony is a creative step we are proud to have taken together as sisters. We grew these songs in a sweet part of our hearts and we hope they bring beauty.”

Sources: Wikipedia; Big Hassle press releases; YouTube; Spotify

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All picks appear on releases that came out yesterday. Let’s get to them without further ado.

Larkin Poe/Southern Comfort

Great to see a new album by Larkin Poe, the roots and blues rock-focused singer-songwriter sister act of Rebecca Lovell (vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums) and her slightly older sister Megan Lovell (vocals, lap steel, slide guitar, keyboards). Their website describes their music as “gritty, soulful, and flavored by their southern heritage.” I first came across these two young dynamic ladies, who not only are excellent musicians but also great vocalists, in late 2019. They started out as teenagers with their eldest sister Jessica Lovell in a bluegrass/ Americana formation called The Lovell Sisters. After the trio disbanded in January 2010, Rebecca and Megan decided to forge ahead without Jessica and have since been making music as Larkin Poe. Apart from self-producing their own music, the two sisters have a very active YouTube channel that among others includes a cover channel featuring stripped-back renditions of many well-known rock and blues tunes. If you don’t know Larkin Poe, check them out! Their energy and enthusiasm are infectious! Meanwhile, here’s Southern Comfort, penned by Rebecca Lovell, a nice southern blues rock-flavored tune from their sixth full-length album Blood Harmony.

Jack Kays/Finally Fine

Let’s turn to Jack Kays whose music is “hard to pigeonhole,” according to AllMusic, blending “punk and emo with rugged acoustic folk and occasional detours into cloud rap.” Here’s more from their bio of the young artist: After a handful of independent releases, the Ohio native found viral success with his sparse but aggressive acoustic songs, especially “Morbid Mind.” Signing with Columbia Records, Kays released his debut album, Mixed Emotions, in early 2021. My Favorite Nightmares, a collaborative EP with Travis Barker followed later that year. I featured a tune of that EP in a Best of What’s New installment at the time. Kays who struggled with addiction during his teenage years is now out with his latest EP titled Cessation. One of the songs, Finally Fine, begins…from the perspective of an addict and then transitions midway through to the perspective of someone in recovery, a press release explains. There’s something captivating about Kays’ lyrics and stripped-back approach on this and the EP’s other tracks, which drew me in.

Action/Adventure/Levity

Action/Adventure are a pop punk band from Chicago. From their Apple Music profile: Combining the aggressive melodic approach of pop-punk with the punishing guitar attack of metalcore, Action/Adventure are a band from Chicago who’ve earned a powerful reputation on the city’s underground rock scene. They also upend expectations of what a hardcore band should look like: Action/Adventure is composed of five BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) men, and their songs sometimes examine the challenges and contradictions of being part of a dominantly white musical community. They just as often deal with the anger, imaginings, and uncertainty that often fuel hardcore, and they perform with a strong balance of fire and precision. They made an emphatic debut with 2015’s Rumble Pak EP, revealed a greater maturity and ambition on 2018’s Going Heel, and began breaking through to a larger audience with 2021’s Pulling Focus. Action/Adventure include Blake Evaristo (lead vocals), Brompton Jackson (vocals/guitar), Oren Trace (guitar), Manny Avila (bass) and Adrian Brown (drums). Levity, credited to all members, is a tune from their latest album Imposter Syndrome. Metalcore generally isn’t my cup of tea, but Action/Adventure’s pop-flavored type isn’t your usual metalcore.

Franz Nicolay/Wandering Star

Wrapping up this week’s Best of What’s New is a prolific multi-instrumentalist and writer, Franz Nicolay. From his website: In addition to records under his own name, he was a member of cabaret-punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, “world’s best bar band” the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol, co-founded the composer-performer collective Anti-Social Music, was a touring member of agit-punks Against Me!; and recorded (complete discography here) or performed (complete list here) with dozens of other acts. He studied music at New York University and writing at Columbia University (where he was awarded a Felipe P. de Alba Fellowship). He received fellowship residencies in composition at the Rensing Art Center and writing at the Ucross Foundation and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He has taught at Columbia University and UC-Berkeley, and is currently a faculty member in music and written arts at Bard College. This brings me to New River, Nicolay’s latest solo album, and the opening track Wandering Star. Great tune – check it out! In fact, the entire album looks promising, based on sampling a few of the other tunes.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes by each of the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Larkin Poe website; AllMusic; Sony Music Canada website; Apple Music; Franz Nicolay website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

As we head into the long Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., it’s time for another look at recently released new music. Before I get to it, let me use this opportunity to address the common misconception that’s driving me crazy, which is this holiday marks the end of summer. It does not. Summer 2020 officially ends on September 22.

Of course, with the ongoing COVID-19 national crisis, this season hasn’t felt much like summer except for heat and, depending on where you live, humidity. In fact, this entire year is pretty much lost in my book and I can’t wait for it to be over, hoping 2021 will bring back better times – this country desperately needs change!

Back to the much more pleasant subject of music. This is actually the 25th installment of Best of What’s New. This week features a nice mix of music styles, including high-energy rock, pop, indie surf rock (does that genre even exist? Who cares!) and country. With artists coming from the Houston, TX area; Los Angeles; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and the Canadian province of Alberta, there is also decent geographic diversity. Let’s get to it.

JunkBunny/Another Summer Song

JunkBunny are a rock trio from Montgomery County, Texas, which is north of Houston. According to their website, the band consists of 3 young musicians – Mac Johnson (lead vocals & guitar, 18), Cayden Diebold (vocals & bass, 17), and Jake Douglas (drums, 17). Like their heroes in Green Day or Blink-182, these childhood best friends save the “serious” for their songs, offering up anthems with the scale of Foo Fighters without sacrificing youthful exuberance and good-natured mischief...Over the past few years, the trio’s live reputation has continued to grow, as they performed with ZZ Top, The Struts, Sammy Hagar and more, as well as at festivals like Louder Than LifeThe trio celebrated 17th and 18th birthdays the year they entered the studio with Howard Benson, Grammy-winning producer of landmark rock records by My Chemical Romance and P.O.D., to make their debut album for Lava Records, home to Greta Van Fleet and Lorde. Another Summer Song is the opener to JunkBunny’s new EP Down the Rabbit Hole, their sophomore release from September 2. Credited to all members of the band, the catchy rocker first appeared as a single on July 24. There’s definitely some of Greta’s energy and Green Day’s sound in that tune.

FINNEAS/What They’ll Say About Us

There’s something very soothing about What They’s Say About Us, the new single by 23-year-old American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor Finneas Baird O’Connell, aka FINNEAS. He’s the older brother of pop artist Billie Eilish who last year broke through internationally with her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and earlier this year scored a hit with No Time to Die, the theme song of the upcoming James Bond picture of the same name. FINNEAS produced the album and co-wrote the Bond tune. When he’s not working with his sister, he’s making his own music. To date, he has released his debut EP Blood Harmony from October 2019 and some 15 singles, including his latest What They’ll Say About Us, which appeared on September 2. Reminds me a bit of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Surfer Blood/Summer Trope

Surfer Blood are an American indie rock band from West Palm Beach, Fla., which were founded in 2009. Their members include John Paul Pitts (lead vocals, guitars) and Tyler Schwarz (drums), who had played together in an early incarnation of the band called TV Club. Mike McCleary (guitars, backing vocals), and Lindsey Mills (bass, backing vocals) complete the current lineup. Their debut single Swim from 2009 was well received and ended up at no. 37 on Pitchfork’s 100 Best Songs of 2009. Surfer Blood followed it up with the release of their debut album Astro Coast in January 2010. Four additional studio albums, two EPs and more than 15 singles have since come out. Written by Pitts, Summer Trope is from the band’s upcoming sixth studio album Carefree Theatre scheduled to appear on September 25. While the clip isn’t the most exciting, I do like sound of that tune.

Tenille Townes/The Way You Look Tonight

Let’s wrap up this installment of Best of What’s New with Canadian country singer-songwriter Tenille Townes, who hails from Grande Prairie, Alberta, and has been active since 2009. The now 26-year-old artist released her debut single Home Now at age 15. Her first studio album Real came out in June 2011. That same year, Townes was also nominated for a Canadian Country Music Award for Female Artist of the Year. Her published catalog to date includes two additional studio albums, 2 EPs and more than 10 singles. The Way You Look Tonight is a track from Townes’ most recent album The Lemonade Stand released on June 26. It was co-written by her, Daniel Tashian and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Keelan Donovan who also contributed vocals. Nice pop-oriented country that’s a bit reminiscent of Lady Antebellum.

Sources: Wikipedia; JunkBunny website; YouTube