"The Ash & Clay," The Milk Carton Kids #TunesTuesday

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Milk Carton Kids The Ash & Clay

For some reason, the Grammy Awards are happening in late January this year instead of the typical early February, so I've been checking out some of the lesser-known nominees. I'd heard about The Milk Carton Kids before, but I'd never really checked them out because their name always harkened back to those emo bands so popular in the early '00s. Turns out their 2013 album "The Ash & Clay" is nominated in the Best Folk Album category this year.

The Milk Carton Kids, who formed in 2011, are hardly kids. Both of the two members, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, are now in their 30s. But "The Ash & Clay" is only the second studio album by the duo from Eagle Rock, California. Though the duo is from L.A., their sound is heavily bluegrass-tinged folk and Americana, and "The Ash & Clay" largely reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel, with Pattengale and Ryan's voices often sleepily merging into one. "The Ash & Clay" is inoffensive and a nice slice of American life, but not altogether exciting either. What might be exciting to folk and Americana enthusiasts, however, is how true-to-form "The Ash & Clay" is.

On "Snake Eyes," the duo's sound is a little darker and more rhythmic, evincing visions of a creeping country waltz in an isolated snow-covered cabin in the middle of the winter woods. "Honey, Honey" takes on a more upbeat, cheerful note, highlighting adept wordplay and string-plucking skills. But the album never strays too far from its forebears', and steadies out to tunes ideal for Sunday afternoon naps in sunny spring meadows. The subject of their music is hunkered down in all things American, in places such as "Dolly Parton bridge" and Graceland.

"The Ash & Clay" is a sleepy, lullaby-paced album whose influences are deeply rooted in traditional folk and Americana rather than the more pop-oriented sounds of contemporary folk. If it's something more current you're looking for, however, look no further than The Milk Carton Kids' previous endeavor, 2011's "Prologue."

The Milk Carton Kids will appear on the February 1st edition of "Austin City Limits" on PBS.

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