Monday, November 23, 2020

Larkin Poe - Kindred Spirits

One of the obvious side effects of the Covid pandemic nixing live music is that many artists have headed back to the studio and tried to come up with something fresh to engage with their audience.  In that vein, Larkin Poe’s Kindred Spirits is an album of covers, delivered in stripped back fashion – and when I say stripped back, I mean to the bone.
Instrumentally, Rebecca Lovell contents herself with the simplest of acoustic guitar accompaniment most of the time, embellished by sister Megan’s lap steel, and here and there a kick drum, a few handclaps, or similar minimalist percussion, letting most of the focus fall on the sisters’ voices as a result.
Rebecca and Megan Lovell - say cheese, ladies!
The majority of the eleven tracks downbeat and reflective, even if that wasn’t the approach taken by the original artist, and now and again the formula strikes pure gold.  Their magical re-imagining of ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ is the prime example, austere and disconsolate in contrast to Neil Young’s electric fury, with halting chords and a lovely lap steel solo from Megan.  Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Fly Away’ becomes something wistful and genuinely evocative of bird-like flight, while Elvis’s ‘(You’re The) Devil In Disguise’ becomes something the King would never have contemplated, all spooky undertones and exquisite harmonies fashioned into – what, Americana desert blues?  And they bring a slinkier kind of nostalgia to Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock', with a neat twist on his “lah da-da-da-da-da” vocal bridge and a slowly dissolving fade-out to close the album.
Sometimes they come up with winners even when closer in tone to the original.  Their ‘Night In White Satin’ may be sombre, but it feels more human and intimate than the rather po-faced proto-proggery of the original.  Post Malone’s ‘Take What You Want’ is well served by stripping away the hip-hop beats and concentrating on the emotion.  Even better, they capture the spirit of ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ perfectly, their divine harmonies trumping Clapton’s own fine vocal, getting positively ethereal on the “I don’t want to fade away” lines, while Megan Lovell adds squeaking lap steel interjections.  They don’t really add anything to Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ however, and certainly don’t find anything to take place of that iconic drum fill.
There are upbeat songs too, in case you thought it would be navel-gazing from start to finish.  They do a brisk turn on Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love’, with Rebecca’s guitar more to the fore in pummelling fashion, the signature rhythm merely implied.  She drives along a fairly straight reading of the Allmans ‘Ramblin’ Man’ too, with handclaps and a sparkling acoustic solo adding to the joie de vivre, en route to a touch of wit in the ending.
The only question in my mind is why their opening shot at ‘Hellhound On My Trail’ is nothing more than a twinkling 44 second snippet, leaving me feeling a tad short-changed.
It’s in the nature of Kindred Spirits that it’s a relatively slight album, but better that than the Lovell sisters trying to gild the lily with half a dozen more tracks.  As it is, it’s a polished, less-is-more little gem – not some multi-carat diamond, to be sure, but a work of quality nevertheless.
Kindred Spirits is out now on Tricki-Woo Records.

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