Review: Larkin Poe and Goodnight, Texas at The Commonwealth Room

Like so many bands traveling between Denver and Salt Lake in the winter, white-out conditions on I-80 forced Larkin Poe to cancel their January date at The Commonwealth Room. They returned to share the love to a sold-out crowd on Valentine’s Day. They were, as their opening number suggests, “taking the long road. Ooh, diggin’ deep. We’re gonna strike gold.” On Tuesday night, they hit paydirt! They followed with “Kick the Blues,” and primed the packed house for a thrilling, rockin’ blues ride. Larkin Poe is a band made up of two sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell who have Georgia and Tennessee roots and play an electrifying style of blues and Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll.

For me, Larkin Poe is at their best when they tap into that old-school blues sound. And as Rebecca Lovell explained, at every show they pay homage to the pioneers of that genre. With Rebecca Lovell playing lead guitar and vocals, accompanied by her sister, Megan, on lap steel guitar and vocals, and backed by drums and bass, they performed a 21st century rendition of Son House’s 1930s blues standard “Preacher’s Blues.” In the 1950s, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins wrote the new blues standard “I Put a Spell on You.” Shattering the hex seven decades later, Rebecca Lovell conjured up a future classic– from the spellbound perspective—and mesmerized the audience with “Bad Spell.” They teased us with the first few bars of Link Wray’s 1958 classic instrumental “Rumble” before launching into “Holy Ghost Fire.” The past and present collided with a thunderous musical explosion. 

Though anchored in the blues, Larkin Poe is at their core a southern rock ‘n’ roll band who play in 5th gear on an open highway. With only an electric guitar, a lap steel guitar, bass, and drums, Larkin Poe generated a piercing blast of down-home jams. “Blue Ridge Mountains,” “Summertime Sunset,” and “Southern Comfort” were high-octane, full-throttle numbers. “Wanted Woman” showed off the sisters’ guitar mastery and vocal dexterity.

The band downshifted long enough for Rebecca Lovell to show off her soulful voice with “Might as Well Be Me,” a great bluesy ballad. I’d like to see her explore more of this. The woman can sing the blues! She also writes great songs. “Mad as a Hatter,” a song she wrote when she was only 15 years old, describes her grandfather’s battle with mental illness and shares her fear that she might inherit his demons. Sometimes blues music isn’t just learned, it’s also experienced. 

They ended their 15-song set with “Bolt Cutters and The Family Name” and followed with an encore, “Deep Stays Down.” They embraced the old stage maxim: always leave your audience wanting more. That was certainly true of Tuesday night’s show. With so many great songs in their arsenal, and despite a full 16-song show, I hoped they’d play more from their impressive catalog.

Goodnight, Texas, opened the show with the vivid tune “Tucamcari,” imaging the windswept New Mexican town like a musical soundtrack from a gritty John Ford western. They reframed Dylan’s “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more,” into a more realistic “I’m Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm Forever.” Goodnight, Texas’s reimagined farmworker is trapped in a work/poverty cycle and doesn’t have an option to leave the farm like Dylan’s protagonist. It’s a bitingly clever and well-constructed song. In all, they played nine stunning numbers. With their finale, “The Railroad,” you could almost hear the hammer strike the spike as they laid down the track. I wanted more. A short opening set just wasn’t enough. I’d love to see them again, this time, headlining in the State Room. I can imagine a number of great local Americana acts who could open for them. Judging from the crowd’s enthusiastic response, I know I’m not the only one.

Who: Larkin Poe w/Goodnight, Texas

What: Blood Harmony Tour

Where: The Commonwealth Room

When: February 14, 2023

Info: https://thestateroompresents.com

         www.larkinpoe.com

         www.hiwearegoodnighttexashowareyou.com

John Nelson
John Nelsonhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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