Growing up an only child, I always wished I had a younger brother, or older sister around. All my friends seemed to have cool older sisters. You know the ones, the elder siblings who knew all the cool music. They knew what to listen to that wasn’t playing on the radio. The ones who had the cool bootlegs, mix tapes or had a look that you didn’t knew where it came from, you just knew it was something to behold. Well, after seeing two sister acts, SHEL and Larkin Poe charm the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, I’m pretty sure that they all would’ve been that perfect sister I never had.
SHEL is made up of the four Holbrook sisters from Colorado. Eva on lead vocals and mandolin/guitar, Sarah on the violin, Liza, who beat-boxes and plays the drums, and Hannah on the keys. You can tell from the moment they played their first song that they are a tight-knit group. Maybe that comes from being sisters and the fact that they’ve probably spent countless hours performing and rehearsing together. Or maybe, it comes from the fact that they are four extremely talented musicians who know how to compliment each other and deliver a whimsical dreamlike sound.
SHEL’s music has a twangy folk-like to vibe to it. The kind that you think would be suited to a trippy lullaby. But once you start to hear their music you won’t want to fall asleep. The moment I saw Eva Holbrook in her polka dots and velvety top hat, my mind went to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland. A look and feel, it turns out they embrace in the single “Rooftoop,” with lyrics like “Step outside your mind cause everyone is mad up here.”
There is an infectious sort of joy in SHEL’s music. And in the way the four sisters play off each other and interact with the crowd. After all, it’s not every band that plays the Mercury Lounge that can cover Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” and intro it with a tale of their recently chasing down Robert Plant in an airport bookstore to express their admiration for one of the greatest bands of all time. Or one in which keyboardist Hannah makes a jovial plea to the audience to help her get verified on twitter before her violin playing sister Sarah. It’s @hannahholbrook and @sarahjholbrook, if you want to take sides folks. I’m looking forward to reliving their sound when their new album Just Crazy Enough, drops on April 29th.
Continuing the sister act that night was the power rock duo Larkin Poe, out of Atlanta. Larkin Poe emerged after one of three Lovell Sisters stepped away from the aptly named Lovell Sisters in 2009. The remaining two, Rebecca and Megan, take their cues from bluesy-based rock and kick it up another gear.
You may have caught them this month on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” performing their slick new single “Trouble in Mind.” That song screams anthem rock. Rebecca Lovell brings a deep and howling quality to her vocals while Megan wields her lap steel guitar to cut swaths of danger and recklessness through the crowd.
On the track “Blunt,” which is not that kind of blunt folks – as Rebecca told the crowd, you get a gospel like feel. But one that questions a higher power and its decision making. The raging guitars serving to highlight the group’s uncertainty in this mortal coil.
With each track that Larkin Poe served up that night you could feel the band moving farther away from their early bluegrass roots towards roaring, edgier guitar driven rock songs.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other literary connection of the night, the Lovell sisters and Edgar Allen Poe. Rebecca and Megan share a family lineage with the great tortured artist. I can only imagine that such a link to Poe would be a daunting task, especially when it comes to songwriting. But the ladies of Larkin Poe are blazing their own path, mixing fiery rebellion filled lyrics with a punishing rock sound.
Article: Omar Kasrawi