Larkin Poe bring their YouTube beloved cover series to album life on Kindred Spirits, a collection of stripped-down covers recorded in four days.
Larkin Poe, singing sisters Rebecca (usually guitar) and Megan (usually lapsteel) Lovell, have been recording covers and uploading them to YouTube for years, with the current count at close to 100. As drooling marketing directors across the world might say, that’s a lot of high-quality content. The songs vary in genre; you might see an Allman Brothers song followed by an Audioslave one. Their musical takes are always focused and captivating, though. Larkin Poe are talented artists who have a gift for getting to the heart of a song and rebuilding it using their sparse tools of voice, guitar, lapsteel, and perhaps hand claps or table hits. The channel also has a good sense of humor, with goofy touches like Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” performed as an 80s video homage. It feels more like a peek into the life of working musicians who live and breathe their craft.
Kindred Spirits moves the YouTube concept to album form, even including some of the same cover songs. Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away,” an earwig of a pop tune, becomes a timeless acoustic blues, with Megan’s howling laptsteel giving the track an emotional depth and desperation that Kravitz himself might never have imagined. The Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” is charming country, Larkin Poe’s hand claps keeping the groove moving, their pretty voices giving the song a different energy than Dickey Betts’. Their take on Derek and the Dominoes’ “Bell Bottom Blues” similarly elevates an already-amazing song. Eric Clapton’s original vocal is beautiful in its pain but Larkin Poe lean into their own pure vocal beauty, aided by some lap steel cries that circle back to the song’s inconsolable sadness.
Larkin Poe used to call their YouTube series “Tip o’ the Hat,” a sweet gesture showing their intent to pay tribute to influences and songs that caught their ear. They rebranded the channel to “Cover Channel,” most likely to make it easier to find, which makes sense from commercial and search engine optimization standpoints, but that also feels a bit like seeing a favorite local restaurant try to expand. You want them to succeed, but you’ll also miss the times you had the place to yourself.
For fans who haven’t heard Poe like this, Kindred Spirits is a fun treat. For those of us a bit more obsessed with their YouTube channel (my daughter calls them “Larkin Poe from the phone,” since that’s how we often listen to them), it’s familiar but still enjoyable. Especially if you go back to compare older covers to recorded ones. For instance, the YouTube version of “Fly Away” is Rebecca playing electric slide alone, with a bit of distortion, turning the song into a modern Robert Johnson blues dirge. If it’s making you wonder if Larkin Poe could pull off a cover album featuring different versions of only one song, you can stop pondering.
They totally could.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Fly Away
– Ramblin’ Man
– (You’re The) Devil In Disguise
– Bell Bottom Blues
The Big Hit
– Bell Bottom Blues
Review by Steven Ovadia