‘Venom & Faith’ is the fourth album from Rebecca and Megan Lovell, aka Larkin Poe. Originating from Georgia, but Nashville based (can anyone actually imagine walking around Nashville and meeting someone not in a band), the album delivers all that might be expected from an artist immersed in that iconic city. This is an album rich in gritty blues played on guitars that conjure up back porches, rocking chairs, hot evenings and buzzing insects. It certainly remains true to traditions, just look at the titles; three have blues in the title (two referring to the music and one to a location ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’). And where would a blues album be without referring to Mississippi? In this case it is the song….. ‘Mississippi’. And how could that be anything other than an unhurried, slide guitar driven crawl complete with slightly dirty vocal treatment about, of course, going to the crossroads and meeting the devil.
Steeped in tradition in might be, but it sails the leeward side of cliché, nodding to and protected by the past masters without unnecessary dalliance with anything faddishly avant-garde. What it feels like is that Larkin Poe are delivering a fresh invigoration of the genre. They have a clever mix of original compositions and covers, so much so that as a body of work it is seamless. The opening song ‘Sometimes’ is a Bessie James cover in which Larkin Poe hit their stride early with insistent, percussion backed, chant vocals before a military drum beat underpins a brass fill. After that, songs revert to minimum instrumentation with guitar and slide played by the sisters, though ‘Mississippi’ features Tyler Bryant (he of ‘and the Shakedown.’) Skip James’ ‘Hard Time Killing Floor Blues’ is the other cover on the album delivered, as with all the others, with impassioned force.
Indeed as an album tagline, ‘Venom & Faith’ could easily speak to process and content here; the faith being true to the genre and the ideals which gird the stories behind the songs and venom, the waspish power of delivery. Indeed, as readers might know, the band take the name Larkin Poe from a distant relative, but the more famous relative is Edgar Allan and dare we say that echoes of the macabre weave through the songs, be it the vocal delivery of ‘Mississippi’ or the ‘dare you keep up’ challenge of ‘Honey Honey’ where “You got your stars on, USA / We’re finding freedom on the freeway Changing lanes ’cause we are driving/ For the blacktop, say a prayer/ To little Jesus on the dashboard /Close your eyes, you’re gonna get a free ride”.
Over ten songs Larkin Poe get inside roots and blues, pull it apart, keep the best bits and stamp their personality all over the album. The result is worth more than just a rewarding listen: it’s an album that proves well-trodden paths can still lead to unseen vistas; it deserves a slot on your playlist.