The Milk Carton Kids are a duo from California, they have just released their second album The Ash and The Clay. Kenneth Patengale and Joey Ryan began performing together in 2011, they began performing in clubs around L.A and recorded a live album that year at a gig in Ventura. It's a unique album that has a serene beauty to it, one scribe has described the duo as being a mix of Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings and Simon and Garfunkel and it's quite an apt description. There's a softness in the music that belies a deeper introspection and a tinge of darkness. Hope Of A Lifetime opens the album on a note of uncertainty,
While I pray for Promised Land
To replace all I have made
Darkness steals the light I bear
And the hope of a lifetime fades
The hope of a lifetime fades
Snake Eyes is another song that feels dark, a sense of despair in the gently delivered vocals. It's a song with a vivid cloak that keeps you guessing, there is a certain mystery in each song.
Old Snake Eyes
You had better disguise
All that appears of thee
Honey Honey is an uptempo old timey romp with some dexterous finger picking, Years Gone by is deeply reflective, a paean to the unsuspecting march of time with some amazing harmonies, the two voices achieve so much. The Ash and the Clay has the most familiar ring to it, Paul Simon was a master at writing about the melancholy affecting America in the late 60's, and it seems this song is the Milk Carton Kids writing about the same uncertainty, that sense of aimless direction. The plaintive Jewel of June has a rich lyrical tone to it, another song reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. Memphis feels like a eulogy, using the great city of Memphis to represent a sense of decline but also to remember what made it great, the land of the King and the home of soul.
I guess it takes
More than a man
More than a dream
For such a fight
Graceland is a ghost town tonight
The Ash and The Clay is one of those albums that captures a raw and powerful sentiment, it's a veiled but deep portrait of the uncertainty of our modern times. In the great time honoured songwriting tradition these songs are told from the shadows. It's something that Greil Marcus said, that great songs come from the shadows, their meaning hidden but that is where the songwriter finds them. I'm going to see these guys play live next month and it's a show I'm really looking forward to.