EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: Larkin Poe and Other Online Finds (But Mostly Larkin Poe)
Photo by Bree Marie Fish
Sometime during my first week of our pandemic lockdown I was mindlessly surfing through Facebook, as one does, when I came across two women playing and singing in a casual setting with minimal production value but pretty good audio quality. Larkin Poe. Name sounded familiar, but I don’t think I’d ever heard them play before. They were doing this cover version of a ZZ Top song that I’ve never really liked, so I moved on. Thirty seconds later I went back to watch them finish it. And then I watched it again.
Since March 12, I have listened to what seems like several thousand hours of music; watched Scandinavian television shows; sampled films from South Korea; did the Tiger King boogie in one sitting; started, stopped, and started again to binge Ozark; read three different books simultaneously; and have tried hard to play guitar at least an hour a day. I’ve risked my life for a dozen bagels and a bag of Oreos. Stood in line for over an hour to buy a dozen bottles of sparkling water and a carton of almond milk that did not feature the faces of any missing children on the side. Once, I repeatedly refreshed the Costco app on my iPhone over a 36-hour period without any sleep until it finally allowed me order a case of Bounty paper towels, which I patiently waited four weeks to receive. I’ve bought two black handmade face masks from a woman in Latvia named Veronika who posted them on Etsy, and she has sworn to me that they were sent to me over a month ago. And I believe her.
Have you ever heard of a band called Severe Tire Damage? Me neither. On June 24, 1993, they were the first band to perform live on the internet, beating out The Rolling Stones by a year. In 1995, RealNetworks streamed the first baseball game: the New York Yankees versus the Seattle Mariners. And in 1998 Dale Ficken and Lorrie Scarangella stood in a Pennsylvania church as the Rev. Jerry Falwell sat in his office in Lynchburg, Virginia, and officiated their wedding over the web. It wasn’t until 10 years later that YouTube hosted its first livestream and opened up a new media format for live music, sporting events, original programming, gaming, pornography, and things we’ve never imagined and are still evolving.
Two months after watching that first Larkin Poe livestream, which has since been viewed over one million times on Facebook, I am still enchanted by this sister duo. I’ve watched Megan Lovell play a duet with her musician husband, and watched her DIY slide guitar lessons. I have seen Rebecca Lovell’s kitchen and grabbed my guitar while she taught us a blues riff from one of their new songs. I’ve heard them cover Black Sabbath and sing a Bill Withers song when he passed, and they’ve talked about their new album, Self Made Man, that comes out June 12 and the worldwide tour that was planned and is obviously in pause mode.
It was only when I followed the trail to Larkin Poe’s Wikipedia page that I realized I had once known them as The Lovell Sisters, an acoustic roots band from Georgia that included their older sister Jessica, who performed together from 2005 through late 2009. I’d heard them on Prairie Home Companion and there’s a hard drive in my apartment that I’m pretty sure contains their two albums. As teenagers they were road warriors, touring in a minivan and playing up to 200 dates a year. When Jessica left the band, the other two formed Larkin Poe in 2010 and their music has since evolved into a hard-charging Southern blues, rock, and roots orientation.
Rebecca and Megan released several projects on their own and played as backing musicians on a number of tours with Elvis Costello, Conor Oberst, Keith Urban, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, and others. They were tapped by T Bone Burnett as players in the band for Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes in 2014 and made their debut at the Glastonbury Festival that summer. Their fourth album, Venom & Faith, reached number one on the Billboard Blues Chart in November 2018 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Each of the Larkin Poe videos above were originally streamed on Facebook and Instagram during the lockdown. Both sisters are social media savvy, and for years have built a loyal following around the world by letting their individual personalities shine through the screen and interacting in a very natural way. They have certainly brightened my two months at home, and it feels like I’ve made two new friends who have broken the fourth wall.
Now living in Nashville, the sisters say this is the longest period in 15 years that they have not been on the road. And it comes at a particularly important time in their career, with Self Made Man scheduled for release next month. If you head over to their website, you’ll find links to the weekly livestream concerts they’ll be doing in May and June, along with tour dates – fingers crossed – that follow.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.