The roots-rockin’ sibs of Larkin Poe talk about their Southern roots, a Nashville homecoming and a certain iconic Boston ancestor
They’ve crisscrossed Europe, played Japan and barnstormed America in support of their seven studio albums. The most recent, Blood Harmony, was released in November.
Sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell have been in musical harmony since they were youngsters, first as classically trained violinists, then in a bluegrass band before discovering the crunch and punch of electric instruments.
As Larkin Poe, they’re now bona fide “rock chicks” with roots in the deep, wide and rich musical culture of the South, where boogie and blues, soulful gospel harmonies, gothic storytelling, folklore and other fertile elements formed the firmament of rock and roll.
“Our childhood was full of different kinds of music,” says Megan, 33, whose electric Rickenbacker lap steel dobro has become integral to Larkin Poe’s sound and stage presence. “Our parents were real music lovers, so we grew up in a diverse musical household. In the past few years, we’ve really delved into blues music and have been going back to learn the history of Southern rock, like the Allman Brothers, and who they were inspired by.”
“We like to describe it as roots rock ‘n’ roll,” says Rebecca, 32, who occasionally swaps her Fender Stratocaster or Jazzmaster for a mandolin.
They write the bulk of their own songs, but on record and on stage, they’ve been known to cover tunes from blues legends Son House, Robert Johnson, Elmore James and Leadbelly, plus Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, The Band, Cher, Johnny Cash, Neil Young and the Fisk Jubilee Singers—and yes, the Allman Brothers. Their version of the Blind Willie Johnson call-and-response gospel classic “John the Revelator” was used in the hit Fox TV show Lucifer. They’ve performed with Elvis Costello and toured with Bob Seger.
They acknowledged many of their influences in their 2020 album Kindred Spirits, an eclectic collection of music that had shaped them, from Eric Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues” to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.”
“There’s such a kinship in music with roots that have grown out of the same place,” says Rebecca.
Their own roots are in East Tennessee, where Megan and Rebecca were born, later relocating with their parents near Atlanta. They released their first album, Kin, in 2014, then resettled in Nashville. Their 2017 album Peach was a nod to growing up in Calhoun, Ga.
This week, on Friday, March 31, Larkin Poe will play downtown’s Brooklyn Bowl, making a special appearance in their adopted hometown. “The very first show that] Brooklyn Bowl did [in 2019] was a Larkin Poe show,” says Megan. “It was right at the beginning of the pandemic, and we did a livestream for Self Made Man,” their fifth album.
“There’s something special about getting to play a show, then drive a couple of miles and sleep in your own bed,” says Rebecca, excited about the Nashville date on their Blood Kin tour. “It’s very sweet to be [back] in our hometown. We were born over in Knoxville and our grandparents live in Morristown, just a hip, hop and a wobble from Nashville. Being close to the Smoky Mountains is one of my absolute favorite things about Nashville—that in just a few hours, we can get back to the land we grew up on as kids. It’s good family vibes all around.”
Those family vibes extend back through multiple generations, to a famous relative—the poet and short story writer Edgar Allen Poe. The literary master of mystery and the macabre was a distant cousin of Megan and Rebecca’s great-great-great-great grandfather, Larkin Poe, whose moniker the sisters took as their musical namesake.
Their parents had collections of Edgar Allen Poe in their extensive home library, so the sisters read up on their Boston-based ancestor, best known for his gloomy tales of dread and death. “The darkness and Southern Gothic-ness of his writing appealed to us,” says Megan. But they missed—or avoided—most of the horror movies based on his classics, like “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death” and most recently, “The Lighthouse.”
“I’m definitely a purist when it comes to books I cherish,” says Rebecca. “I don’t want my mental image to be bullied to someone else’s representation, to be honest.”
Megan has another explanation for why her sister stays away from movie adaptations of their ancestor’s frightening tales. “Rebecca is very scared by horror movies,” she says.
Quoth the raven, or at least paraphrase: Rock on, Larkin Poe, evermore! And welcome home.