Larkin Poe opens Saturday shows at Jazz Aspen Labor Day
With incendiary harsh blues guitar riffs, disarming vocal harmonies and pent-up pandemic energy for over a year, sister duo Larkin Poe could be the sleepy spectacle of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day experience, or any festival bill.
The Nashville-based sisters, exiting their Thursday slot in Bonnaroo, will open the action at the Snowmass Town Park pop music festival on Saturday, followed by headliners Sheryl Crow and Eric Church.
Sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell have been touring as musicians since they were barely teenagers, so they were thrilled to be back on stage this summer.
“It was such a relief to finally be able to return to live music,” Rebecca said in a phone interview while touring Virginia.
The duo released their fifth studio album, “Self-Made Man,” in the Home Stay Void of June 2020. Unable to tour with these new songs – including the streaming hits “Holy Ghost Fire” and “She’s” a Self Made Man ”- the duo looked online to connect with fans and saw the songs start their lives strangely without a live performance.
“It was definitely a shock to release it in a year without touring,” said Rebecca. “It’s great now to finally be able to play the songs as they are meant to be played for people. “
The songs started to evolve on the road this summer, with some turning to the more heavy metal side of the Black Sabbath-inspired band.
“It’s one thing to perform a song in the pristine void of the studio,” she said. “It’s a whole different proposition to release a song when you’re on stage and you’re sweaty, and the crowd is in full swing. “
The group has what the sisters are calling a “double life” online, where in recent years they have posted a series of popular covers on YouTube. They focus on tracks that would seem far from Larkin Poe’s wheelhouse and creatively make them their own. Highlights, for example, are their renditions of “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz and “Devil in Disguise” by Elvis Presley.
“I think it was kind of a backdoor way to find our own voice,” Megan said of the YouTube cover series. “Taking the songs someone else wrote – usually songs we wish we had written – and making them sound like Larkin Poe has taught us a lot about what our voice is.”
Last fall they rounded up the best of them for the “Kindred Spirits” cover album. But the pair keep the covers in the digital realm and focus on their originals in concert. If they do a cover on stage, it’s usually a traditional blues – their “John the Revelator” for example – and not YouTube picks.
According to them, the ongoing cover project has made them better songwriters.
“Being able to crawl into someone else’s composition and figure out what makes it work – something we’ve now done several hundred times in our online series – it works the writers’ muscle- composers, ”Rebecca said.
They expect more cover albums to follow “Kindred Spirits” in the years to come.
Larkin Poe has also embarked on a new project spawned by the pandemic during the shutdown of the live music industry: a collaboration with hybrid orchestra Nu Deco Ensemble for a concert broadcast live from Miami.
Complementing Larkin Poe’s songs with strings and a brass section, the event sent the band’s roots rock tunes through the filter of an orchestra. Listening to the tapes in the painting afterwards, the sisters remembered that they knew they had to share this spectacle with a wider audience and with posterity. They released the single “Sometimes”. A live album, “Paint the Roses: Live in Concert”, is due out September 17th.
In recent years, Larkin Poe has toured Colorado and the Western Highlands regularly, including his first tracks for Elvis Costello and Keith Urban. Labor Day is the first of a handful of other concerts here this fall, including a headlining concert at the Ogden Theater in Denver on September 17 and at Telluride Blues and Brews the next day. The duo have their biggest tour yet booked for fall. On the road for the first time in a full tour bus and with sponsorship from Monster Energy, they have dates on the books in the US through December and a massive 37 overseas show in the spring.
And yet, the Grammy-nominated duo have learned through the pandemic – and by connecting with audiences online in new ways – that they are more than a touring act.
“I think we’ve always thought of ourselves as road dogs and that’s something that will continue until we’re sitting in rocking chairs,” Rebecca said. “But thanks to the lockdown, we were able to perceive new avenues that we could take if and when we wanted to take some time on the road. … We definitely take it as a gift in some ways. A confusing gift, sometimes a sad gift, but you also have to look for the positive side. “