Album Review: Larkin Poe – Venom & Faith

Album cover artwork for Venom & Faith by Larkin Poe

Larkin Poe have brought the music of their roots bang up to date on progressive third album ‘Venom & Faith’.

Larkin Poe, aka Atlanta-born sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, have spent the last eight years releasing music that continues to surpass all expectations. From their ‘Band For All Seasons’ series of four EPs (one for each season, obviously) in 2010 to last year’s album of blues covers and original material ‘Peach’, they have progressed from folky bluegrass to full-on blues-rock with a large helping of pop along the way. New album ‘Venom & Faith’ (released on 9 November via Tricki-Woo Records) sees them further evolve their modern interpretation of the music of their Georgia roots.

Album opener ‘Sometimes’ is a stomping cover of fellow Georgian Bessie Jones’ classic acapella blues number. Larkin Poe have not only added their own lyrics but also a marching beat and powerful horn section, which really packs a punch. In a time when more people have a need to take to the streets and march, their rendition serves as a reminder of the rhythmic power these songs can have. It’s been pounding through my head since the first listen.

The whole album is a thrilling mix of rocking roots, soulful pop and ballsy blues but all with a pounding rhythm and a Deep South gothic twist. ‘Beach Blonde Bottle Blues’ is full of attitude and reflects on a swaggering, dangerous woman – with Megan Lovell’s lap steel screaming out a warning as Rebecca sings that “you gotta ride at your own risk” – while ‘California King’ has an anthemic chorus that any R&B diva would be happy with. ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry’ is a stirring reflection on an emotional struggle and coming of age while ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ is throbbing electro-pop paired with fierce riffs. ‘Mississippi’ is a ballad of dual guitars with lyrics of “pain and misery going down the Mississippi” while ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’ is a joyous hoedown that speaks of the ‘Georgia clay” of the sisters’ hometown.

Latest single ‘Honey Honey’ is as clever as it is catchy. It pairs slow, simmering verses with a chorus that soars on Rebecca’s impressive vocals before the two contrasting styles are brought together with a marching beat and the words “honey honey I was born for a fast world”. It shouldn’t work, but it does. They’ve also successfully pushed the boundaries of their blues sound with the use of electro drum samples, hip-hop production tweaks and even organic percussion – we’re talking slamming doors, dresser drawers and literally stomping on floors in ‘Hard Time Killing Floor Blues’. ‘Venom & Faith’ is a testament to Larkin Poe’s creativity and their unerring belief in what they do never fails to impress.

This album is proof that Larkin Poe can bring American roots music to a new audience with their unique juxtaposition of using genre conventions with innovative production and arrangements. With their evocative lyrical and musical expressions on the duality of life – of sadness and joy, of venom and faith – it’s easy to love this duo’s brand of barnstorming blues.

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