Larkin Poe, the Atlanta-based sister act of Megan and Rebecca Lovell, introduced themselves slowly, shyly, with a suite of four semi-conceptual EPs of gentle bluegrassy folk — Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter — and a somewhat more rambunctious fifth EP, Thick as Thieves. The 12-track Kin is their first full-length statement — and, for better and for worse, it’s not what might have been expected.
Kin is a determined step away from the duo’s winsome strumming and cooing harmonies. It’s a bold, occasionally almost-belligerent upsetting of expectations, the sisters bringing a pugnacious swagger to their songs. The opening track, “Jailbreak,” spits the clichés of desertion and defiance (gunshots, bats out of hell, balls and chains, etc). It’s arresting, but not wholly convincing.
It’s not that Larkin Poe are incapable of a rockier take on country: ¬”Don’t,” with its Glitter Band drumbeats, and the Shania-ish strut of “Sugar High” are good fun, and it would be no surprise to hear one of them in a future episode of Nashville. But “High Horse” subsides into genericana, and the ungainly “Elephant” sounds like a pitch to Katy Perry’s publishers. Of the other departures from the established template on Kin, the most interesting are “Dandelion,” a potted melodrama evocative of the Shangri-Las, and “Jesse,” which suggests Bobbie Gentry singing the Supremes.
But the best of Kin is the closest to those four seasonal EPs: the lovely, punky, acoustic “Stubborn Love,” the plaintive and lovelorn “Crown of Fire.” It’s always encouraging when a young act has Larkin Poe’s restless ambition — but they could do worse than to consider the possibility that they got it right the first time.