Milk Carton Kids: The Ash & Clay


The Ash & Clay, the latest album from The Milk Carton Kids, is no-frills, utterly simple folk music, and it is beautiful. Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale use nothing more than acoustic guitars and their effectively intertwining vocals to tell a series of tales that are both timely and timeless. The emotions are expressed subtly, the subjects are deep and the payoff is big. If you long for a return to the old days of folk music, then this is your ticket to happiness.

Much of the album is marked by characters who have either been disappointed by life, God or any number of circumstances, or suffered greatly. “Snake Eyes” gets your attention with an abbreviated, mournful nod to the lyrics of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and despite the quick pace and upbeat sound of “Heaven” it is hard not to miss the weight behind the duo’s vocals when they sing “They promised me heaven / I was hoping for something more.” Such letdowns are also given ear in the closer “Memphis” when they sing about the emptiness of such a shrine that is meant to be something for people to enjoy.

Ryan and Pattengale complement each other, vocally, in a style that is reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, and they do this with a surprising level of grace and aplomb. The album’s serious material will make you contemplate the importance of life in a non-judgmental or manipulative way, and that is no small feat. The Ash & Clay is a prime example of how to make simple music be powerful without resorting to making it simplistic. This is one stellar record.

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