I first encountered Larkin Poe when a friend gave me their Spring EP, one of the 4 seasons EPs they released in 2010. I liked what I heard – really great modern folk music with a definite hint of Katie Melua, which is a good thing in my head. I always meant to check out more of their music, but for whatever reason I never did. Roll on a year or two and the same friend invited me to see Larkin Poe at the intriguingly named Zinc Arts Centre, in the just as interestingly named Chipping Ongar, in Essex.
Before I get too the main act, let me talk about the support act, Raevennan Husbandes with Simon Lewis on guitar. I’d not heard of her before, other than a tweet I’d seen earlier in the day mentioning that it was her birthday – great way to celebrate. As soon as she started singing it was quite obvious this girl was special, as her vocals filled the hall like a magical spirit. Her vocals were absolutely beautiful, and combined with her finger picking guitar and Simon Lewis on cello, it was an acoustic masterclass of modern folk.
Her songs come from the heart and the passion with which she delivers them is as evident as the high level of musicianship she has achieved. Both her and Simon lost themselves on the music, while rarely a smile left Raevennan’s face. Between songs we got stories and humble expressions of gratitude, delivered with an infectious and endearing personality. We were told an EP is on the way, and it’s definitely one to look out for.
Now we move on to Larkin Poe, who had a drummer and bassist with them – a proper band as they had tweeted out earlier. From the relatively little I’d heard of their music, with the ringing endorsement of my buddy, I was really looking to forward to seeing them play, but I wasn’t quite expecting what we got.
Firstly, they have changed their sound to more southern rock – bigger and brasher, but still very playful and at times hauntingly elegant. Second, the guitar skills. In a week where 3 days earlier I saw Sarah Zimmerman of Striking Matches play live on London, I was treated to another two exceptional female guitarists in the form of Rebecca and Megan Lovell. These girls can shred with the best of them, but with such style and never feeling bombastic. Rebecca on a variety of guitars and mandolin, and her sister Megan on lap steel – I was mesmerised, with my eyes often darting from one to the other.
One such song was Wade In The Water which I was fortuitous in choosing as the one song to record, as you’ll see from this video just what an epic performance it was.
You’ll get some sense of their personalities from that video, and that’s one of the biggest contributors to what makes them such an enjoyable act to watch play live. If you didn’t know they were sisters you’d probably guess. In my mind Rebecca is the cheeky one that gets in strife, and Megan is the one that gets them out of said strife, with a smouldering look that warns people not to mess. They both have a vocal range that can go from gentle to powerhouse in a flash, with such incredible control.
Their songwriting is a mixture of tales, humour and moments of tear jerking poignancy. We got treated to quite a few songs from the new album Kin, and although I bought a copy last night (the second copy ever sold to the public – my friend got the first, damn him) I will not listen until I have finished this review, so as not to affect what I write. Ones that stood out for me where High Horse, Don’t (to be the first single from KIN) and Stubborn Love, which covers the aforementioned sisterhood. We also got too hear Jailbreak, which is a story of a relationship gone bad, and the guy being sent on his way. This has parts in the chorus where Megan was almost howling like a wolf – she seemed to be having a lot of fun, and it was fantastic to watch.
On stage these girls are fascinating to watch and seem to be able to play at the very top of their game, whist interacting with the crowd and each other. There was one point where mid song Rebecca had a string break. Without missing a beat she took the guitar off her shoulder, grabbed a second one, unscrewed the capo from a 3rd, screwed it onto the second, plugged the lead into the new guitar and all whilst making sure she was never away from the mic long enough to miss one word.
Their set seemed to go far too quickly, and not because it was short, but because we were all enjoying it so much. Luckily we did get a one song encore, which was just Rebecca, Megan and an acoustic guitar, and a great way to end the night’s entertainment. Not content with just putting on a first class show of live music, they came into the lobby afterwards and both signed and posed for photos. Classy, fun, humble and stupendously talented.
The venue itself, the Zinc Arts Centre, was a great setting for this gig, with a stunning sound set up and great seating. Being front row I fully experienced the former, but not the latter, but I do have eyes! All the staff were very friendly and on what seems like the first of these type of shows for Zinc Arts, I’d call a verdict of resounding success.
As I type this Larkin Poe are playing on the Avalon Stage at the Glastonbury Festival and next Saturday they will close the main stage in The Barn at the Maverick Festival. They are touring around Europe throughout July and you can see more details of that here. I can’t recommend them enough and urge you to both seek out their music and watch them live. I plan on seeing them at least one more time this summer – well, that’s the plan. I also want to seek out the rest of their music catalogue, including their pre Larkin Poe career as part of the Lovell Sisters. Larkin Poe – absolutely the complete package, and superstardom SHOULD be awaiting them.