Larkin Poe Brings Their Blood Harmony 2023 World Tour to Milwaukee
Written and photographed by Brooke Billick
The Lovell Sisters Band, Version 2.0, burst into Milwaukee’s music scene on a dreary, cold and damp Friday night bringing their own version of explosive, raw contemporary Southern blues to the Turner Ballroom.
Better known, of course, as Larkin Poe, sisters Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell electrified the packed house with their aggressive guitar and slide licks, their tight, sweet harmonies, and their captivating stage charisma.
Nashville-based Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell started their professional careers as teenagers in 2005 with their older sister Jessica, playing as the Lovell Sisters. That formulation disbanded in 2009 with Rebecca and Megan coming back in 2010 as Larkin Poe. The name is a tribute to their fourth-great grandfather, who was a cousin to the poet Edgar Allan Poe. Hence, their signature raven logo.
Grammy-nominated Larkin Poe is a highly accomplished and incredibly talented duo. They have been quite prolific over the last 12 years. They have released six studio albums, a live album, a handful of EP’s, a number of live and recorded collaborations with other artists, all the while maintaining an exhausting touring schedule.
Both Rebecca and Megan Lovell are multi-instrumentalists. Rebecca plays lead guitar and keyboards with Megan coming in on her lap steel and a resonator guitar. Rebecca sings lead with strong support on harmonies from Megan.
The Michigan Rattlers opened for Larkin Poe. The Rattlers stage set up was tight and towards the front of the stage, with each of the band members playing in close formation to each other.
With the set change between the Rattlers and Larkin Poe, the center of the stage was emptied—the drums were moved off to stage left, the keyboard off to stage right, leaving center stage wide open. This was necessary as, so they say, Rebecca and Megan Lovell “used the whole acre” as they strode, danced and jammed across the stage.
The crowd roared as Larkin Poe took the stage. After introductions, the band launched into “Strike Gold,” an ode to the will of a strong woman in declaring her independence. The song introduced the audience to the stinging guitar and slide licks, sharp lyrics and tight grooves that highlight Larkin Poe’s music.
“Kick the Blues” was next reflecting the directive of shaking off bad mojo and grabbing life by the neck.
Larkin Poe’s style is as simple and direct as a gut punch. Their lyrics blend metaphors into their story telling, often including sharp barbs pointed at society’s assumptions and conventions. At times, their lyrics take on gothic tones as they plumb the depths of human emotion. Common themes throughout their music include a deep sense of family and heritage, which evoke a deep love and appreciation for their Southern upbringing.
The set list included songs from their current album, Blood Harmony, as well as songs well representing their later releases from 2017 on.
The folks in the front line of the pit all felt like they had a personal concert, with Rebecca and Megan frequently walking right up to the stage lip, bending down and engaging eye-to-eye with the fans up front.
In between songs, Rebecca spoke about their love of music, their influences, and their passion for serving as role models in encouraging greater participation by women artists in music generally and in Southern rock and roots genres.
Traditionally you see lap steel players sitting on their butts working their magic slides on the instrument. But that just isn’t Megan Lovell’s style. She is leading the charge for slide players who have their guitars suspended from their shoulders. What better way to strut across the stage!
Megan’s lap steel of choice for this show was her signature Beard Electro-Liege. Designed by Megan Lovell and built by Paul Beard with a style intended for performing standing up on stage, Megan coaxed the tones out of the lap steel like an alley cat wailing the night away.
Next up was “Preachin’ Blues”—their cover of the iconic ballad by Son House. Megan Lovell launched that song with her slide intro.
A fierce sense of independence and a refusal to be held down or held back are also commonly present in Larkin Poe’s music. “She’s a Self Made Man” highlights this independence while also offering their blistering sardonic take on the fantasy that women somehow need strong males in their lives to fulfill their dreams. “Baby’s on her way/She ain’t coming back.”
Rebecca and Megan paused after “She’s a Self Made Man” as the stage crew brought the band shots of Southern Comfort. As the duo playfully toasted St. Patrick’s Day, Rebecca recalled how that was the drink of choice of Janis Joplin and again referenced the band’s desire for more women embracing Southern blues. This led into the song “Southern Comfort,” evoking a wistful reminiscence of the good memories and locales of their Southern life.
Larkin Poe’s versatility and range of styles and emotions were on full display throughout the show. The tone and intensity came down a notch, with the haunting emotions coming out on “Might As Well Be Me.” Rebecca Lovell’s soaring vocals explored the depths of a woman’s sorrow in a troubled relationship, seeking out love while accepting heartbreak and even betrayal. Megan Lovell’s slide took on an especially mournful and soulful tone.
Larkin Poe’s style and approach draws instant comparisons to Samantha Fish—another strong impressive woman who throws her all into her hard-driving blues. This comparison was particularly apparent on “Bad Spell.”
Rebecca and Megan showcased their tight, intimate harmonies as they sang “Wanted Woman—AC/DC” almost cheek to cheek.
Larkin Poe closed their show with “Deep Stays Down,” a haunting bluesy trip into the rhythms and roots of the South where secrets exist and best remain buried.
As they closed the show, Rebecca and Megan bent down to hand out guitar picks and trinkets to the front audience. Rebecca even stripped off her tour t-shirt to give away. When I asked a friend of mine who was front and center what he was able to snag, he said he didn’t try because Rebecca and Megan were targeting young women in the audience with their gifts.
That moment was so poignant and fitting and represents just one more reason why one loves the Lovell Sisters, 2.0!
Michigan Rattlers—Honest Songwriting and Hard-Hitting Rock
Michigan Rattlers opened the show. Hailing from Northern Michigan, the band is comprised of Graham Young on guitar, Adam Reed on bass, Christian Wilder on piano, and Tony Audia on drums. The band members have all known each other since their high school days and before.
The Michigan Rattlers have been together and performing off and on for the past 8 years. They take their name from the real Michigan rattlesnake—the only venomous snake in the state.
The band has evolved from its early country roots to more of a blended roots-folk-rock approach. They’ve received positive reviews for their fresh musical approach, described as heartfelt, honest, and organic. The Rattlers have appeared at major festivals like Bonnaroo and continue to tour extensively.
The Milwaukee crowd warmly received the Rattlers. They opened their set with “That Kind of Life,” the title track from their 2021 album release. Their set list spanned much of their current catalog and well represented the breadth and maturity of their skills. Undoubtedly, they will continue to expand their influence and fan base as their reputation grows.
Simple, uncomplicated and direct lyrics. Hard punching vocals and soaring guitar and slide licks. Vocals virtually oozing with emotion and feeling. An explosive and evocative stage presence. These are the hallmarks of Larkin Poe and their music.
To paraphrase from Edgar Allan Poe, it is clear from their performance that Larkin Poe’s love of Southern blues and rock and roll is “a love that is more than love.”
Larkin Poe will continue to grow their legions of enthusiastic fans as they sing further their anthem of female independence and inclusion in modern music. Rebecca and Megan Lovell are well deserving of all the attention they can gather.
Larkin Poe have a few remaining US tour dates before embarking to Australia and New Zealand during April. They will then continue their US tour before heading to Europe for summer and fall dates.
For updates on the band, including their tour schedule, visit https://www.larkinpoe.com/. More information about Michigan Rattlers, including their upcoming tour dates, is at https://www.michiganrattlers.com.
Larkin Poe, Turner Hall
Kick the Blues
Preachin’ Blues (Son House cover)
Georgia Off My Mind
She’s a Self-Made Man
Holy Ghost Fire
Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues
Blue Ridge Mountains
Back Down South
Might as Well Be Me
Wanted Woman – AC/DC
Bolt Cutters & The Family Name
Encore: Deep Stays Down