In the admittedly small amount I have read about The Milk Carton Kids, the names of Simon & Garfunkel and even the Everly Brothers always pop up as comparisons and influences, and after listening to Monterey, their third album, this is with very good reason. I would also suggest throwing in there, The Lost Brothers and even Mark Kozelek when he’s in his Spanish influenced nylon string acoustic mood.
The Milk Carton Kids are Californians Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, and they use two instruments each : their acoustic guitars, and their voices. And what voices…think Jose Gonzalez for tone and clarity.
Each song on the 11 track 37 minutes album follows pretty much the same format - amazing finger picked guitars, and stunning 2 part harmonies creating a truly modern take on American folk with its roots firmly planted in the past.
The album was written and recorded whilst touring across the States, on stages in concert halls, churches and theatres rather than actual studios. Not surprisingly, thematically the album is either based on an actual or a theoretical road trip across the country, with song titles like Getaway, title track Monterey and Freedom giving the game away.
It’s a difficult task to point out any obvious highlights of the album, as the album as a whole and in its entirety is a highlight, and should be listened to as thus. The pace of the album remains constant throughout, although penultimate track Sing, Sparrow, Sing drops a little, and this is also the only track with only one voice on it, acting as almost a nursery rhyme pallet cleanser for the stunning final track Poison Tree when the harmonies are back in unison.
It’s also difficult to come up with anything critical about this release. I’m currently writing this on a beautiful sunny day, looking out into the garden with the birds singing and the music is perfectly sound tracking the sense of peace and tranquility. It’s that good.
I’m so glad to finally have The Milk Carton Kids in my life. Take a listen, and I’m sure you will too.