Those Lovell sisters bring fun and pleasure to a locked-down world with their new album of classic covers. We review Kindred Spirits by Larkin Poe.
Release Date: 20th November 2020
Label: Tricki-Woo Records
Formats: CD / DL / stream
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now and, no doubt, I’ll say it again: Larkin Poe are a genuine phenomenon. Hot on the heels of June’s tremendous Self Made Man (our review), Kindred Spirits is the duo’s first album of covers and what a job they’ve done! The choice of material is inspired and the arrangements of the chosen songs range from fascinating to breathtaking.
There can’t be many At The Barrier readers who are still unfamiliar with Larkin Poe. Built around the talents of the Lovell sisters, Rebecca and Megan, and strongly influenced by the gospel, blues and country sounds of the American south, they combine their mastery of acoustic and electric guitar (and banjo, mandolin, violin, piano, etc, etc) with their considerable vocal and harmony talents to produce a sound that is uniquely theirs. Self Made Man received plaudits from all quarters and now with Kindred Spirits, they’ve headed in a different direction, but I expect those plaudits will come raining in just the same.
In their own words, Larkin Poe say “Music is a bridge that can connect generations across time. In recording Kindred Spirits, our admiration for the artists who originally wrote and performed the songs blossomed into an even deeper reverence.” That reverence shines through on every track. It’s a reverence that will be shared by most listeners and I am confident that the versions offered here will entertain all, invigorate many and offend none.
At first glance, this album’s production would appear to be a simple affair. Featuring just the girls with their guitars and voices and recorded live in the studio, the sound is raw yet highly sympathetic. Some songs are reproduced with almost reverential similarity to the original versions whilst others undergo transformations that are almost radical, and both approaches work equally well. Whatever the approach, the end result is a fresh and enjoyable take on an old familiar friend, with a clear indication that the sisters have got right inside the song they’re covering. Most of all, the sense of the fun they’re having is palpable.
As for the songs themselves, we start with a burst of acoustic delta blues with a short slice of Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Trail. Next, Lenny Kravitz’s Fly Away is given a similar treatment with authentic southern bluesy vocals, soaring harmonies and the first of a whole set of electrifying guitar solos. The girls’ version of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World is an absolute classic. The predominantly acoustic arrangement allows the lyrics to come over clearly with their message that is sadly relevant to the current states of our respective societies.
For their crack at Elvis’s Devil In Disguise, a fascinating tango arrangement has been chosen, and it works splendidly, transforming a simple, perhaps over-familiar tune into an epic. In The Air Tonight builds with the same drama as Phil Collins’s original.
The version of Nights In White Satin has already received high praise, following its recent posting on YouTube. Composer Justin Hayward commented “Love it, love them, love them playing it. Thank you Rebecca and Megan.” And who would disagree? It’s a gentle, folky version with some great guitar fills, wonderful harmonies and fantastic use of the electric guitar to take on the mellotron and flute parts of the original.
The shuffle and voodoo feel of Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love are skillfully reproduced to provide the basis for a version that takes the song into a new dimension and the folky take on Post Malone’s Take What You Want is another of the album’s most imaginative arrangements, as well as one of the best vocal performances. Contrast that with the almost faithful-to-the-original version of The Allmans’ Ramblin’ Man (with fluent guitar passages and more superb harmonies) and the variety of approaches to the arrangements really strikes home.
Bell Bottom Blues is another song that follows the original arrangement quite closely, before this thoroughly entertaining album is brought to a conclusion with a delicious acoustic folk version of Elton John’s Crocodile Rock. I particularly love the take on the la-lalalala-la chorus bit!
I can’t remember when I’ve ever enjoyed an album of cover versions as much as I’ve enjoyed Kindred Spirits. Larkin Poe have succeeded in bringing a set of well-loved songs into their own world and adding their own magic. If reverence was what they were looking to show – they’ve managed it admirably.
Watch the official video for Larkin Poe’s cover of Nights In White Satin here: