The Milk Carton Kids – The Only Ones
Until now I must confess I’d never heard of The Milk Carton Kids, the Folk/Americana duo hailing from California, but I’m glad that I’ve finally caught up with them. Consisting of singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, they combined their talents in 2011 and have a healthy back catalogue worth checking out. Their latest offering ‘The Only Ones’ continues with the high standard set by previous recordings.
Best known for their minimalist approach and haunting harmonies the award-winning duo has crafted an old fashioned analogue sound based around their combined vocals and vintage instruments. Ryan plays a 1951 Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar while Pattengale performs on a 1954 Martin 0-15, and their sound really does evoke imagery of big wooden valve radios.
‘I’ll Be Gone’ with its classic Americana feel weaves a tale of self-reliance, while the melancholic ‘I Meant Every Word I Said’ is sombre acceptance of relationship breakdown.
The outstanding highlight on the record ‘My Name Is Anna’, pays homage to the late Anne Frank, and is a haunting comment on the plight of the dispossessed. The song takes into consideration the fact that a large number of them are children, who are living in a climate of fear and mistrust, many of whom have been forced to move on through fault no of their own. Closing out the record ‘I Was Alive’ with its brooding shades of light and dark features superb guitar work by the duo as they strum and pick their way through a song that tries to make sense of the speed of an ever-changing society.
Being a duo and with a sound built on harmonies it will inevitably draw comparisons to Simon and Garfunkle and The Everly Brothers, and while there are similarities, The Milk Carton Kids with their strong songwriting skills have developed their own sound that’s intimate and stark.
A beautiful collection of ethereal music and songs.