JAMES H. COLLINS
Milk Carton Kids, "The Ash and Clay" (ANTI)
The singer-guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan form the duo Milk Carton Kids -- a name that conjures up a brash and rowdy hardcore band.
Instead, these two dulcet-voiced Californians hail from quite a different quadrant of the musical galaxy. On their third album, "The Ash & Clay," they play a music that is reminiscent of The Everly Brothers' close vocal harmonies, supported by some fine guitar picking that recalls some of Appalachia's finest instrumentalists.
Their sound is old-timey, but the songwriting can be quite modern. The title track laments the present state of America and what's been lost -- not in a bitter or brooding way, but with the same yearning nostalgia that flows through every one of their songs.
The song begins with the doleful lines, "Swing sets are empty like dirt turned the dark of the night/The center of this town used to whirl in the glow of the twilight."
Yet there is certainly a palpable hope through these songs. The album's finest track, "The Promised Land," perfectly combines the two sentiments: mourning what's been lost, while aspiring for a brighter future.
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