Album premiere: Milk Carton Kids’ ‘The Ash & Clay’

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The L.A. duo The Milk Carton Kids have the interesting distinction of being just as famous for their live banter as for their music.

It’s no accident that Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan’s act has risen in the ranks of Largo’s folk-comedy crossover: part Smothers Brothers cheeky repartee, part Conchords-ian self-awareness about singer-songwriterdom, the time between their songs at shows can be just as compelling as the music.

But the music is even better. On their debut album “The Ash & Clay” for Anti-, the duo makes four sounds - two voices, two acoustic guitars - sound as big as a prairie. It’s modern roots music sung in close harmony with exquisite guitar work, but unselfconscious about any old-timey signifiers. (Listen to the full album below.)


In a time when Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers can sail onto the top-40 with similar instrumentation and imagery, Milk Carton Kids hit the same emotional highs with much less pomp. There’s no radio-baiting kick drum stomps or angry howls at old lovers, but there is a beating heart and absolute mastery of their craft here.

And if you catch them live at their Largo showcase with Ed Helms, Tom Brosseau, Joe Henry and many other guests on March 27, you’ll get some witheringly funny rapport as well.


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