Review: Larkin Poe release fifth album Self Made Man
The Atlanta-born powerhouse blues sisters are back with their fifth studio album, SELF MADE MAN released via their own Tricki-Woo Records. The work follows their 2018 chart-topping, GRAMMY® Award-nominated album, VENOM & FAITH.
The past two years earned the multi-instrumentalists Rebecca and Megan Lovell a #1 album and GRAMMY® Award nomination while touring the world opening for notable acts like Keith Urban and Detroit’s own legend Bob Seger.
“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. This record reflects some of the joy and positivity that we ourselves feel and appreciate.”
Like the album before, SELF MADE MAN is self-produced by Larkin Poe with their “good buddy and engineer” Roger Alan Nichols at his studio, Bell Tone Recording, in Nashville.
“Working in an industry with too few female producers, the Lovells chose to implement their independent spirit throughout their whole operation, further showcasing their grit, moxie, and determination,” says a press release.
The album opens with its title track. The powerful gender twist “serves as the Lovell sisters’ anthem to their hard fought freedom, kicking off the proceedings with a big riffed assertion of their current intent and amplified artistic power” according to a press release.
The power and confidence that radiates from the opening track sets the tone for the entire album.
“Life is all about balance,” says Rebecca. “Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s sour. With ‘She’s A Self Made Man’, I wanted to write a song about the up-and-down ride that Megan and I have been on for the past ten years of building Larkin Poe. It’s hard to know who you are and it can take time to figure out what your purpose is, but I feel thankful that in recent years, my own feelings have started to click and make sense. Knowing and accepting yourself: that is empowerment.”
“Holy Ghost Fire” continues the uplifting tone. Lyrics like “sing, baby sing, let your sorrow pass by” beg to be sung along to. “Keep Diggin'” has an attitude that says “pick yourself up by the boot straps and keep going.” The rhythm can easily be clapped along to – making it sure to be a live hit.
“When you’re going through a tough time, music has the raw power to galvanize your heart and help you rise above your sorrows,” Rebecca says. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to sing.”
SELF MADE MAN explores themes of community, self-tribulation and tradition.
“Connection is everything,” says Rebecca, “music is the thing that allows us all to express our creativity and our humanity.”
Larkin Poe always channels their southern roots in their music. “Back Down South” featuring Rebecca’s husband, Tyler Bryant is no different.
“As Southerners, we love the incredibly colorful dialect of our region,” Megan says. “I think that ‘Back Down South’ showcases a few pieces of our heritage that we cherish.”
“Roots American music is resurging,” says Rebecca. “And we’re excited to be a part of a new generation of bands making music that feeds off the old traditions. The South is a hotbed and one of the major cradles for American music; I love the fact that just a handful of states have given us so many bands and artists that shaped American music, from Little Richard to the Allman Brothers to James Brown. It’s an important torch to carry because this music, especially the blues, was hard won by some incredible artists for whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. We wanted to write a song that helped remind people; we’ll take every opportunity to tell that story.”
The album transitions from the badass, stomping Southern pride to the flowing melodies of “Tears of Blue to Gold.” The song feels comfortable, warm and welcoming. The story-telling lyrics make it feel like it could be played on a front porch in the warm summer afternoon.
The two have never strayed from covers, but this album contains one of the most elaborate yet. “God Moves On The Water” is a traditional folk blues classic famously first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson.
The sisters add musical, lyrical and arrangement ideas that bring the 1929 song into the today’s culture.
“There’s a fun little research project for people,” Megan says. “Listen to that and then go back and listen to Blind Willie’s version. His story centers around the sinking of the great Titanic, but in our version, we wrote additional verses to try and expand the scope of that feeling, to include other events like that which took place in the course of history.”
Not only is the lyrical and cultural content of the album strong, but the instrumental craftsmanship exudes through its entirety.
“Every Bird That Flies” introduces a darker, slower tone on the album. Roughly before two minutes in, a brooding, powerful slide guitar solo dominates the track. The simple lyrics complement the guitar work, letting it shine.
Likewise, the Chicago blues shines through in “Scorpion.” The beat of the song with the sultry lyrics continues the darker tones of the before track. The sultry lyrics flow into kick-ass, female empowering song, “Dark Angel.”
The album studies various genres of music; from folk to the gospel sounds of “Ex-Con” to bluegrass to country and rock ‘n’ roll. It shines as the bands most explorative, creative work to date.
“The writing process for this album was liberating,” Rebecca says. “When I first started writing songs as a sixteen-year-old, I was consumed with my singular perspective; I needed to write from an intensely personal place. When we started working on Self Made Man, I wanted to take a step back and think about storytelling from a broader perspective, and that really opened up a whole new vista. Listening to this album, now that it’s finished, I can hear the growth and I am very proud of it. There are so many moments in these songs that I can’t wait to sing with our fans.”
“I’m going to keep on keeping on cause it won’t be long till I walk on that Easy Street.”
The catchy chorus from the albums nostalgic, front porch anthem, “Easy Street” reminds that listener that despite all that may be going on, better things are come. The upbeat track wraps all of the emotions of the work together.
SELF MADE MAN is an album that highlights the passion, craftsmanship and creative nature of the Lovell sisters. While drawing from tradition, the duo creates their own blend of blues that resonates in 21st century culture.
“We are continually humbled by how far-reaching music is,” Megan says. “Music helps us ask the eternal questions: why are we here? Where do we go next? The music that we love speaks to some of those questions and that’s the kind of music we’re trying to make; music that resonates regardless of what language we speak, the kind of music that touches the soul.
You can stream the album here and follow the duo on YouTube where they post cover videos throughout the year.
Photo by Bree Marie Fish