'Bland easy listening' was how I dismissed Larkin Poe's 'Thick As Thieves' from 2012 but there's nothing insipid or overtly radio friendly about their latest release.
Six years on, the Atlanta, Georgia-born sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell now have significantly more fire in the belly. Recorded in Nashville and produced by the band and their long-time engineer Roger Alan Nichols, the sound on their fourth album is sharp and incisive with a real sense of urgency.
This is a celebration of American roots music although of the ten tracks there are only two covers: Skip James' Hard Time Killing Floor Blues and Sometimes by blues legend Bessie Jones. The latter is the attention-grabbing opening track that shows that the sisters mean business.
These classic 'mean old world' laments blend seamlessly with more contemporary concerns, such as those recounted in the lead single Bleach Bottle Blond Blues.
The Lovells play all the instruments except on Mississippi which features slide guitar from Tyler Bryant. Rebecca's vocals are raw and powerful enough to add plenty of oomph to a line such as "I don't know how to pray, I say hallelujah anyway" on Ain't Gonna Cry.
The album's title, taken from a lyric on Honey Honey is intended to conjure a southern gothic image. Before listening, I would have taken this as wishful thinking but I'm happy to say they proved me wrong.