Sunday, 7 April 2013

Larkin Poe - Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot Saturday 6th April 2013

Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell
If you are in the ever decreasing circle of music fans not yet acquainted with the delights of Larkin Poe then reading on is essential. Likewise if you are in their ever increasing band of admirers then reading on is also advisable as this continually evolving group will never let you rest on your laurels. The girls use their indie status to set their own agenda and it’s a breathless but highly rewarding experience to keep track of them. From the initial bluegrass inspired Lovell Sisters material, the journey for Rebecca and Megan continues to hurtle through country, folk, pop and a little bit of rock, all having that Larkin Poe stamp of expertise.

This short, date-wise, UK stint of a more expansive European tour started with a celebrated invitation to flank fellow state of Georgia native Kristian Bush in front of a packed O2 Arena at the Country-2-Country Festival in London. The subsequent dates on from that exalting experience have been markedly low key in comparison but on this evening a couple of hundred eager fans almost filled the auditorium at this impressive and well funded Oxfordshire arts centre. Instead of supporting one half of super group Sugarland, tonight Rebecca and Megan Lovell are back in the day job fronting the current four-piece Larkin Poe line up featuring Marlon Patton on percussion and Robby Handley on bass. The sound of much of the new songs previewed during the set had a rockier feel than earlier material but this is just one of the many influences that enhance a Larkin Poe live experience.
Blair Dunlop
For this tour, the band have teamed up with rising UK folk star Blair Dunlop with whom they have collaborated on a short EP recorded during his visit to Atlanta last year. Blair opened with a compact set of his material which included a cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning 1952’ and a version of the traditional ‘Black is the Colour’. Not surprisingly, Rebecca joined Blair to sing the harmony just as she did on the recorded version. The compliments to Blair were returned when he was invited to assist the band on two tracks from the EP mid way through their set. These included the Rebecca penned ‘Lottie’ and the title track ‘Killing Time’. It was particularly noted that this part of the show had a lot more folk and rootsy feel to the sound especially when Rebecca dusted down her fiddle. This was just another eclectic example of what you get from Larkin Poe.

In the last couple of years the band have released the four seasonal EPs, another excellent short collection titled THICK AS THIEVES, the upcoming work with Blair and a recently released full length collaboration with acclaimed Norwegian singer songwriter Thomas Hell. While all these recordings have their merits, this evening was very much based on the imminent forthcoming full length solely Larkin Poe album. You now begin to see the vibrancy and buoyancy of the band. As stated the new material has a greater full on electric vibe and amongst the songs previewed ‘Sugar High’ reflected this sound probably the most although the set opener ‘Trick of Light’, ‘Voodoo Doll’ and ‘Try to Trust Me’ came across well.
Blair Dunlop joins the band for a couple of songs
Of the few well known tracks played during the evening, the stand out for me was the wonderful ‘Play On’ from the THICK AS THIEVES EP ending with a brief outbreak of audience interaction on this outstanding uplifting number. The collaboration with Thomas Hell was represented with the fine ‘I Belong To Love’ with Rebecca humbled by the 400,000 You Tube hits of the video. Many of those in the audience were present when the band performed, the yet unrecorded, ‘Mad as a Hatter’ at last year’s Cropedy Festival and were served with an another impressive offering of the song this evening.

The appeal of a Larkin Poe live gig centres on the effervescent personality of Rebecca when providing lead vocals, alongside her array of stringed instruments, and the sumptuous lap steel guitar playing of Megan. The blending of this traditional twang is equally as effective with the bluesy rock numbers especially set closer ‘Jailbreak’ as well as with the tender mandolin on the spiritual standard ‘Wade in the Water’. As you would expect the sibling harmonies are in evidence, no more greater exemplified than the delightful encore when in old time style, the guys departed and the girls sang a wonderful acoustic number ‘Take Me Back’ around a single mic. This proved a sublime and precious moment to end the evening.

So strap on your seatbelts and prepare yourself for the next instalment of the Larkin Poe Americana odyssey. The UK festival scene will once again be hosting them this summer including the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival, where fans of the rock side of that genre will be in for a treat.

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                                                                               Larkin Poe - Play On





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