Larkin Poe Serenades the Luther Burbank Center
Review and Photos by: Jesse Amazeen
Equal parts southern rock, folk, and blues, Larkin Poe is a standout in today’s music world. Talent, honesty, and feeling are the tools this dynamic duo from Georgia uses to get their message across. Santa Rosa was treated to their soulful stylings Tuesday night, as they warmed up the stage for Elvis Costello at the newly renamed Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.
Formerly known as the Lovell Sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell formed Larkin Poe after reuniting in 2010. By that time, they had spent the previous four years touring and recording, showing off their chops at places like Bonnaroo and the Grand Ole Opry. Since then, they’ve released two studio albums and five EP’s, in addition to a pair of collaborations, while continuing to tour and gain worldwide praise.
Opening for Elvis Costello on his “Detour” tour is only half their job though; they are also sharing the stage with him at times during his set. Which is familiar territory for these two, since they’ve served as his backing band on and off for several years now. And like Elvis, they also played their set without a rhythm section. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical when they hit the stage as a duo. After all, some of their best recent material is driven by a searing hot rhythm section.
It didn’t take long for my skepticism to melt away though, as the sisters put on a dazzling performance, both vocally and instrumentally. They wasted no time with formalities or lengthy monologues, playing a brief but incredible set of songs. One of their most recognizable renditions came early in the set when they played “Black Betty”, a Lead Belly cover song made famous by seventies southern rockers Ram Jam. Larkin Poe made it their own in 2014 with an amazing a capella version recorded in a shower stall.
Sporting her trademark Jazzmaster guitar, lead vocalist Rebecca charged through originals like “Don’t” (from 2014’s Kin), and covers like “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Sonny Bono. While the latter might be a bad choice for a less talented act, Megan’s lap steel (which she plays standing up, thanks to a custom harness) adds a new dimension to this song, and coupled with the duo’s smoldering vocals, elevates it to something truly unique and beautiful
Closing out the set with the powerful “Trouble In Mind”, Larkin Poe almost left me wondering why they weren’t the headliner. Maybe they will be, next time.