A Family Affair

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by Rebecca M. Alvin

“Larkin Poe was the name of our great-great-great-great-grandfather. And as sisters, we wanted to have a band with familial significance. So, we named the band Larkin Poe,” explains singer/guitarist Rebecca Lovell. “And added bonus: Larkin Poe was the cousin of Edgar Allan Poe. So, we liked the literary connection, as well.”

The latest Larkin Poe album will be released on November 11th

The band Larkin Poe, made up of Rebecca and her sister Megan, who plays slide guitar, is a blues-infused, Southern rock, bluegrass duo that writes, records, and performs heavy-hitting guitar music lightened by lovely vocal harmonies. Born in Georgia and raised in Tennessee, the Lovell sisters were raised on roots music, with both parents introducing them at an early age to that quintessential American music, blues, which is such an influence on them today.

As Megan Lovell puts it, “We definitely want to kind of harken back to the folks who came before and really made all of American music possible.”

But both Megan and Rebecca started their musical education in a very different musical tradition, learning classical violin when they were just toddlers, which was a daring choice of instrument for their parents. “Our parents are music lovers, you know; they were always playing such great music in the household with us growing up, and they wanted us to be able to experience the language of music. So, our mom was just really instrumental in helping us develop that side of ourselves at a very, very young age. Like what noises can a three-year-old make on a violin that are anything close to good?” Megan laughs. “In our early teens is when we transitioned over to more acoustic instruments and you know picked up a guitar, picked up slide guitar. We were just kind of bit by the roots-music bug and really wanted to learn how to improvise and write our own music as opposed to playing music off the page. Although, you know, we have great respect for classical musicians. We just wanted to go in different directions.”

Rebecca says that while their decision to move into more contemporary American music took them away from their original musical pursuits, classical music provided a foundation for understanding music theory, developing a musical vocabulary, and being able to play by ear. But recently, things came full circle for them when at the end of 2020, they made an album called Paint the Roses with the Nu Deco Ensemble, an orchestra in Miami that specializes in using classical music in genre-defying ways. “We actually performed a live concert with our original music being underpinned by the ensemble. And it was an incredible experience,” says Rebecca. “We have strayed very far from the classical fold, and we very much have embraced many different musical styles, but to have our original music sort of filtered through the lens of the music of our childhood, our introduction to music, it was very sweet and very special.”

The sisters have been touring nonstop since April and are headed our way for a show at Payomet Performing Arts Center in North Truro this Friday, and they say they are excited to come back to the Cape as it’s been several years since they’ve been here. They have a new album Blood Harmony coming out on November 11th, although several singles are already available, including the song “Bad Spell,” which Rebecca says she wrote as sort of a response to the famous, unusual Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song “I Put a Spell on You.” She says she had the name of the song in her writing notebook for a couple of years before she was able to actually come up with the song. “The way that he sings is just wild. And I was very much taken with that song and wanted to write more or less my own version, quote-unquote, of it. You know, that’s a very high bar to try and swing over,” she says. “I really love it. It’s swaggy, it’s fun, and I do believe that that’s one of the best-case instances of you know, art begetting art—that you find inspiration from something that someone has done before you, and you’re able to, you know, build your own little portion of the story after what’s come before, and it feels nice to be able to find your space, your little comfort zone in space and time in that way.”

The Lovell sisters also own their own record company, so they produce and market their music, embodying the indie artist ethos fully. The imagery for the new album Blood Harmony, has a retro look that Rebecca says is a tribute to the music of the 60s and 70s that has really inspired them, everything from the Allman Brothers to Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and even Black Sabbath. “That’s definitely an era from which we pull a lot of inspiration,” she says. “So, we were trying to create something that we felt was a little bit nostalgic, we thought would be kind of fun.”

Larkin Poe will be performing at Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Rd., North Truro, Friday, September 2, 7 p.m. For tickets ($38 – $80) and information call 508.487.5400 or visit payomet.org.