The most startling thing one notices about the debut album by east Tennessee sister act the Larkins -- lead singer and fiddler Shaunna Larkin and her younger sister and mandolin player Tina Larkin -- is that Shaunna sounds uncannily like Dolly Parton every time she opens her mouth, to the point that when the great one herself shows up singing harmonies on her own composition, "Steady as the Rain," it sounds like one singer overdubbing herself. The comparison is more than geographical similarity (and, it must be noted, the sisters' stunning blonde looks): the Larkin sisters got their professional start entertaining guests at Dollywood with their parents. The Larkins is along the lines of Parton's retreat to traditional bluegrass, gussied up with a little Nickel Creek slickness and some Dixie Chicks-style pop smarts, especially on the sprightly "Gone" and the endearingly silly "One Without the Other." As usual with this kind of contemporary country album, there's the occasional descent into schmaltz -- not many folks can pull off a song like "Jesus, Daddy and You" -- but these are refreshingly few, making The Larkins an enjoyable, encouraging debut.
The Larkins Review
by Stewart Mason