A slithering resonator guitar note glides through “Deep Stays Down,” the opening track on Larkin Poe’s new album, Blood Harmony, snaking its way through a hypnotic Mississippi blues. The swampy rhythm evokes the murkiness of a society in which secrets remain buried from generation to generation — “the river runs deep and the deep stays down” — never to be revealed until the skeletons are dug up. That opening song reveals the musical force and songwriting ingenuity that the band, led by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, spools out on the rest of the album.
The swaggering “Bad Spell” is equal parts Black Sabbath — the song’s opening riff has sonic echoes of “Paranoid” — and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in the service of the band’s down-to-the-bone blues rock. The straight-ahead Southern rocker “Georgia Off My Mind” laments leaving home behind in Georgia for the drive up the interstate to Tennessee, where the singer hopes her “star’s gonna shine, shine.” Making it in the music business is the only thing that will keep “Georgia off my mind.”
Raw vocals soar over shimmering lap steel and resonator licks on the title track as the sisters demonstrate with their vocals that there’s “nothing quite like blood harmony.” They affirm that the lineage of such a gift stretches back to their mama, to whom God gave a “singing voice / And mama passed it down to me.” The scorching, stomping “Southern Comfort” revels in the deep comfort family and place bring while at the same time embracing the impassioned desire to move well beyond the fetid miasma into which place and home often sink.
“Might as Well Be Me” is a Memphis soul-stirrer, with soaring vocals and fiery guitars; one can easily imagine Bonnie Raitt singing this song. The album closes with the sparse, ethereal “Lips as Cold as Diamonds,” a haunting blues ballad.
Blood Harmony showcases Larkin Poe’s command of the blues, and their ability to write and deliver songs that reveal the shadows and light through which we pass in our everyday world. Even in the midst of the blues there still resides hope and joy, and Larkin Poe leads us through to that other side.
Larkin Poe’s Blood Harmony is out Nov. 11 on Tricki-Woo Records.