The Milk Carton Kids Are A Joy To See And Hear

Read our review of The Milk Carton Kid’s ‘The Ash & Clay’

The Ash & Clay
It’s taken me a little while – too long in fact.

I’ve been hearing good things about The Milk Carton Kids over the past few weeks.  I then discovered that the duo had been nominated for Emerging Artist Of The Year in the Americana Honors and Awards in Nashville.  Knowing that there’s every chance that they would be performing while I was there this coming September, I thought I should purchase their current CD The Ash & Clay.

I then made the hasty (and ultimately unwise) decision to listen to the album in the car, over a number of short trips.  Sounded good but didn’t exactly leap out of the car stereo.  Then my wife won a ticket to see them live and I heard them on a live interview/performance on Melbourne community radio station PBS and the beautiful tunes and guitar playing started to really hold my attention.  A couple of serious listens to the album the day of the gig was time well spent.

But nothing though prepared me for the performance I witnessed that night.

The Milk Carton Kids are a contemporary folk duo from Los Angeles, California.  ImageKenneth Pattengale (left) and Joey Ryan formed the group in early 2011, shelving their solo careers in favour of a collaborative project that focused on harmonies, integrated acoustic guitars, and profound songwriting.  They haven’t wasted much time.  They released a live album (Retrospect) in March 2011 and three months later followed with their full-length studio debut, Prologue.  Both recordings were released for free via the band’s website – you can join 200,000 others by downloading both albums here: www.themilkcartonkids.com.

The Ash & Clay, the duo’s second studio outing, arrived in 2013 via the ANTI- record label.  There have been comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, the Civil Wars, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and the Everly Brothers, but I wouldn’t think they have anything but their own individual take on their material – a minimalist, down-home style that fits the burgeoning Americana scene to a tea.

This is a brilliant album – twelve tracks, stripped down, no signs of a backing musician, just two guitars – a 1954 Martin 0-15 (Pattengale) and a 1951 Gibson J45 (Ryan).

I would humbly suggest that the album is worth buying for the final track alone – “Memphis” – I’m not sure I will hear a better song this year:

There was a dream
I had it too
You could see it
Coming true

It would travel
In the air
You could make it
If you dared

Now the sun goes down over Dolly Parton bridge
The one time home of soul takes our country’s final breath

I guess it takes
More than a man
More than a dream
For such a fight
Graceland is a ghost town tonight

This ain’t a trip
With my son
There’s no guitar
Shines in the sun

Those days are gone
May new ones come
Before it’s all just
A museum

Now the sun goes down over Dolly Parton bridge
The one time home of soul takes our country’s final breath

I guess it takes
More than a King
More than a song
For such a fight
Graceland is a ghost town tonight

I guess it’s been a long decline
God bless the souls that shook up mine

Graceland is a ghost town
Graceland is a ghost town
Graceland is a ghost town tonight

The show at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre was a sheer delight.  Those two aforementioned guitars were sounding perfect – in ideal unison, as well as the striking harmonies.  The playing of Pattengale was outstanding, a beautiful feel that made you think he doesn’t play the same way on each rendition – sometimes I wondered whether he might even have strayed from the melody and timing of the song, but he never did.  As a result, the impact was fresh, as if they were playing together for the first time.  The banter from Joey Ryan was also a surprising delight – we were entertained with the derivation of the ampersand – &, the importance of the comma in the song title “Honey, Honey” and why we should buy their past CDs at the merchandise table when they are available on-line free.

Roots music is in good shape – just check out The Milk Carton Kids.

Here they are doing three songs from earlier albums – “Michigan”, “Stealing Romance” and “I Still Want A Little More”.

 

Read our review of The Milk Carton Kid’s ‘The Ash & Clay’

Read our review of The Milk Carton Kid’s ‘The Ash & Clay’

Read our review of The Milk Carton Kid’s ‘The Ash & Clay’

Read our review of The Milk Carton Kid’s ‘The Ash & Clay’

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Author: Rob Dickens

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