Okay, quick quiz for you...how many famous ‘Poes’ can you name? Go on...if you’re lucky you might just come up with the one, the granddaddy of horror himself Mr Edgar Allen Poe. Even so I was more than mildly surprised to discover that tonight’s band, Larkin Poe (sisters Rebecca and Megan) are actually related (albeit distantly) to the dude behind The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (serves him right for releasing rubbish records...). Cool eh? Formerly trading as The Lovell Sisters (that’s the sister’s surname, Larkin Poe was their great, great, great grandfather and cousin of Edgar), Larkin Poe have been around since 2010 and tonight they’re fresh from Glastonbury...well, as fresh as you can be after spending several days ankle deep in mud and...er...other ‘stuff’...I guess.
First up though a couple of local gems Jayne Powell and Chris Tye. I’ve seen both before a number of times but don’t recall being as impressed by them before as I was this evening. Jayne sang a couple of songs first invoking the kind of heartbreaking emotion that Patsy Cline regularly dished up back in the day. Chris then took over with Jayne on backing vocals for some numbers from his last album Matchbox Stand and a few from their new collaboration The Paper Grenade. One in particular stood out, The Unassuming Start and, being a betting man, I’m off to pop a fiver on it being a hit. Seriously. A genuine bone fide 100% hit. It’s the kind of track that the ad men behind the John Lewis Christmas campaign would cream themselves over, the sort of song that makes you feel a little bit wistful without battering you over the head with clumsy clichés. Clever and beautiful stuff. Vocally the combination of Jayne and Chris is pretty sublime too with both voices seeming to bear the scars of life, love and everything in between
Time then for Larkin Poe and an eager circle of men of a...er...certain age had gathered by the stage, drawn in perhaps by the band’s looks as well as their musical chops (come on now, looking good never did a musicians' career - male or female - any harm eh)? If you’ve only watched some of the Poe’s You Tube videos...gentle country tinged folk and sweet sibling harmonies...then tonight’s show may have come as a surprise. The truth is Larkin Poe ROCK. There’s much more of a dirty Southern blues thang goin’ on and lead vocalist Rebecca (sporting a pair of leather hot pants and red DM’s) seems to have developed a rather delicious growl to her voice at times, like she’s been gargling Moonshine or something. Opening numbers Thief In the Night and Sugar High firmly set the tone with the latter in particular oozing sexy sassiness with a neat bluesy kick in the guts for good measure. Not for the first time this evening Larkin Poe make male Blues hued bands like The Black Keys sound like the Spice Girls. Even traditional spiritual Wade In The Water (which they’ve covered loads of times) is shot through with more of a rougher, tougher ‘swampadelic’ Blues edge to go with the Poe’s soulful vocals. Kudos for the rather fine mandolin solo from Rebecca on this track too, in fact both ladies roll out some impressive solos throughout the set with Megan teasing some extraordinary sounds out of her slide guitar.
Aside from the rockier stuff there are still some of their bluegrass roots showing through though with Crown Of Fire (like many of tonight’s tracks from forthcoming album Kin) featuring the kind of tightly bonded sisterly harmonies that First Aid Kit have pretty much built their reputation and career on. Stubborn Love added a nice gentle 60s Summer time vibe to proceedings before the ‘Beyonce goes deep South’ swagger of Elephant. That left the glam boogie of Don’t and the gritty, hazy Jailbreak (you can almost taste the dust and dirt of the chain gang), featuring a wonderful vocal/slide guitar duel, to cap off a set that had frankly been a revelation. Of course there was an encore, Take Me Back, which appropriately enough took the girls back to their earlier sound with Megan and Rebecca simply and rather touchingly facing each other and singing acoustically, as they’ve no doubt done since they were knee high to a grasshopper. WOW. What a Poe-formance. Expect big things when the album hits in ‘the fall’ as they say Stateside.