In November, tucked among the roughly 420 Grammy Award nominees sat Larkin Poe, the duo of Rebecca and Megan Lovell. Their 2018 release, “Venom & Faith,” was tapped as a contender for best contemporary blues album, the first-ever Grammy nomination for the sisters born in Calhoun and reared in Marietta.
“To have that outsider sense of approval, it was so exciting not just for us, but for our teammates. To say we’re Grammy-nominated not just as artists, but as producers, it gives you that confidence. It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rebecca, who unleashes the raw, robust blues-rock vocals and stinging electric guitar riffs in the band.
The women – who live a few miles from each other in Nashville, but return to Marietta to visit their parents every month during non-pandemic times – self-produced “Venom & Faith.” (They lost the Grammy in January to Gary Clark Jr.’s “This Land.”)
The success of their fourth album — both critically and within the industry — “made us feel like we were making the right decision to self-produce,” said Megan, the softer-spoken lap steel guitar wizard who also handles harmony vocals and dobro.
She’s referring to Larkin Poe’s new release, “Self Made Man,” which arrived June 12, guided again by their own production.
“I feel that we went into this record specifically trying to create songs that would translate effortlessly onto the stage,” Rebecca said. “The last few records we made, we had to fight a little more to make some songs work onstage and since we tour our butts off, it was a blessing for Megan and I to be able to take that energy into the studio.”
Indeed, Larkin Poe are road warriors, and while they’ve stayed engaged with fans through their “Home Sweet Home” livestreams (the final scheduled installment took place June 6, but there might be more in the future), the inability to tour behind such a potent record is understandably frustrating.
“This release cycle is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. We make records that are left of center, and you literally have to take the music to the people, so not being able to do that is unsettling,” Rebecca said. “But you can’t inflate your sense of purpose at this time. There were conversations at the outset of coronavirus about waiting until things are a bit more stable (to release the album). But ultimately we decided that wasn’t part of our ethos. Life is about the happy moments, the sad moments, the moments in between.”
The Lovells have since rescheduled their European tour to kick off in February in Dublin.
But for now, fans have time to marinate in the richness of “Self Made Man.” From the booming chorus of “Holy Ghost Fire” to the fun, Gary Glitter vibe of “Tears of Blue to Gold” and the buzzy blues rock of the title track (officially “She’s a Self Made Man”), Larkin Poe simply dominates.
The band also teamed with Urban Outfitters to release an exclusive hot pink vinyl version of the album as well.
“Even though we are firmly rooted in blues and roots music, we do like a pop song structure,” Megan said. “Like (Tom) Petty said, don’t bore us; get to the chorus.”
In 2018, Larkin Poe experienced a road run with another master of major hooks — Bob Seger.
The connection happened after the sisters recorded a cover of Son House’s “Preachin’ the Blues” for their YouTube series, “Tip of the Hat,” which virally weaved its way onto the Facebook page of Seger’s wife. From there, it was a sequence of management calling management and an excited duo agreeing without hesitation to open during the rock legend’s farewell tour (the show played Infinite Energy Arena in December 2018).
“He is one of those consummate songwriters. His songs, it hardly seems possible that he could have written them all — it’s like they were always there,” Megan said. “And the way he connects with an audience… he’s always smiling.”
Added Rebecca, “They tell you don’t meet your heroes, right? I did not get that sense from Bob Seger. For someone who is as big a celebrity as he is, he’s really just one of the guys. But the biggest takeaway for us was that night after night, he’d leave it all up there on the stage. He’s one of those incredible human beings who is able to bring people to him.”
Anyone who has witnessed Larkin Poe in concert recognizes that Rebecca and Megan already effortlessly captivate through the strength of their songs.
But, “It’s tough to look into the crystal ball,” Rebecca said about future touring plans.
In time, that magnetism will be on display again.
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