Album Review: Larkin Poe – Self Made Man

Album artwork for Self Made Man by Larkin Poe

Larkin Poe take us on a joyride with the full-throttle roots-rock of fifth album Self Made Man.

Larkin Poe, aka Atlanta-born Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist sister duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell, have spent the last ten years releasing the crossover music of my dreams. They’ve journeyed from folky acoustic roots to their current mix of barnstorming blues and classic rock and brought their loyal fanbase with them for this thrilling ride while picking up any stragglers on the road. Their GRAMMY® Award-nominated fourth studio album – 2018’s Venom & Faith – saw them progress their modern interpretation of the music of their Georgia roots and new album Self Made Man (out on 12 June via their own Tricki-Woo Records) is another leap forward.

Appropriately for a band that has come so far, their fifth studio album is inspired by their travels around the world touring Venom & Faith, but it is also rooted in their American South heritage. More generally, it reflects on their road to personal empowerment and the infectious positivity they carry with them, which clearly comes across during their live performances. “This is, in a lot of ways, is the first lyrically uplifting record we’ve made,” Megan says. “People can go through terrible things. People can weather immeasurable sorrow and hard times, and yet we can still come out on the other side, pull ourselves together, and thrive”.

Album opener ‘She’s A Self Made Man’ is all about thriving against the odds, with the playful gender-twist of the title and lyrics as fierce as the power chords: “Like a cannonball, moving down the track. Baby’s on her way, she ain’t coming back”. It’s a driving start that is followed by the gospel imbued anthem ‘Holy Ghost Fire’, with call and response sections and a chorus that actively encourages you to sing your heart out: “Sing, baby sing, let your sorrow pass by. Lift our voices with the smoke, rising higher”. 

‘Keep Diggin’ is a pointed warning about being loose-lipped that has uplifting, raw energy, while ‘Back Down South’ (featuring blues rocker, and Rebecca’s husband, Tyler Bryant on lead guitar) shifts pace and vocals – from a moody whisper to a soaring crescendo, highlighting Rebecca’s impressive vocal range.

‘God Moves On The Water’ is a cover of a folk-blues song famously first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson with lyrics that focus on the sinking of the Titanic. As with Bessie Jones’ acapella blues number ‘Sometimes’, which appeared on Venom & Faith, Larkin Poe have added their own lyrics and played with the arrangement to give Johnson’s traditional classic a contemporary twist. ‘Every Bird That Flies’ is another track on the album that blends the traditional and contemporary, with a deep-south gothic sound that is accompanied by a blend of modern beats and organic percussion. I’ve seen the sisters describe Megan’s Rickenbacker lap steel as a second lead vocalist and this interplay between singing and sliding is effectively woven through every track. 

This album is the perfect reflection of life’s trials and tribulations with moments of darkness and intensity juxtaposed with joy and relief. ‘Scorpion’ is as ferocious as its title suggests and is in an intense double-bill with the dirty riff of ‘Danger Angel’, while the exuberant hoedown of ‘Easy Street’ offers hope and recovery.  

The duo have produced their last three albums and it’s clear that the more they take the wheel, the better they sound. Self Made Man is Larkin Poe at their ballsy bluesy best and their most eclectic and confident record to date. They have been on quite a journey in the past ten years, but it’s clear they have arrived.

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