Typically attired in T-shirts, leather jackets and ripped jeans, sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell — better known as Larkin Poe — look every inch the rock stars they seem set on becoming. Happily, their appeal is more than photogenic.
The two multi-instrumentalists grew up in Atlanta making music — classical at first, then bluegrass, which developed their technique and jamming chops. In 2005 they won a national teen talent contest as the Lovell Sisters on “A Prairie Home Companion,” with older sister Jessica playing fiddle. After she departed for college in 2010, Megan and Rebecca formed Larkin Poe, taking their name from a long-ago ancestor related to Edgar Allen Poe. In the years since they’ve finessed their ear-tugging sound and performance dynamic. Rebecca’s bold, emotive singing makes her a natural frontwoman, but Megan — nicknamed “SlideQueen” by fans — is no wallflower. She wields her vintage Rickenbacker lap steel like the secret weapon that it is.
Their acoustic beginnings are evident in collaborative recordings they made five years ago with friends Thom Hell and Blair Dunlop. But unlike Dixie Chicks Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin, the Lovell sisters were less infatuated with banjos than their electric guitars (although Rebecca still sets aside her Stratocaster, Buttermilk, to play mandolin). By the time the duo relocated to Nashville in 2016 and released “Reskinned,” they were firmly committed to their self-described “roots rock ‘n’ roll.” Last year’s buzz-generating album “Peach” was even more confident and dominated by blues, including defiant takes on Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues” and the Blind Willie Johnson-popularized “John the Revelator.”
They’ve since built up a following with tours and informal videos with just the two of them playing blues, soul, country and rock cover tunes: the Allman Brothers, Phil Collins, John Denver, Aretha Franklin, Howlin’ Wolf, Queen, Ray Charles, Little Feat. Their source material is classic, and their arrangements often unexpected.
Larkin Poe’s inclusion on the Across the Great Divide benefit bill at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel Oct. 19 alongside John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Shemekia Copeland and other Americana and blues heavyweights attests to the respect they’ve garnered. They’ve been featured guests on Keith Urban’s Graffiti U tour this year, and will join him when it pulls into Staples Center Oct. 6. Late-November European dates will be followed by a cross-country tour promoting their new album “Venom & Faith.”
Due Nov. 9 from their Tricki-Woo label, “Venom & Faith” is sleeker, more electronic, and more focused on original songs like sticky single “Ain’t Gonna Cry” and the slide-driven “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues,” save for covers of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and Bessie Jones’ “Sometimes.” Hopefully the Lovells will unveil some new material during their set Saturday at Tastes & Sounds on South Lake, which is likely to be the day’s musical highlight.
Tastes & Sounds on South Lake present Larkin Poe, Verite, the Regrettes, the Sound of Ghosts, and Arms Akimbo, plus DJ William Reed spinning between sets, 12-5 p.m. at the Shops On Lake, 345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena; free admission. Info: (626) 792-1259. Larkinpoe.com, southlakeavenue.org