The Milk Carton Kids The Ash & Clay

The Milk Carton KidsThe Ash & Clay
The sound of two voices and two guitars in harmony has been a cornerstone of American music since the beginning, from the Blue Sky Boys through to the Everly Brothers and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. That the music of the Milk Carton Kids contains echoes of all of these artists is a testament to the depth of talent that Joey Ryan and Ken Pattengale possess. The Ash & Clay is the first major-label release for the California duo and its quiet power is startling in this age of studio excess. The immediate similarities to Welch & Rawlings, as well as Simon & Garfunkel, don't linger long once the album's spell takes hold. Ryan and Pattengale perform almost as a single entity, even though their roles are distinct, with Ryan's voice more dominant and Pattengale's fluid lead guitar providing a gorgeous counterpoint. None of these tools would be fully utilized, though, if not for the duo's equally natural songwriting ability. Classic folk themes are updated on tracks such as "Honey, Honey" and "Heaven," but it's the subtle observations in songs like "On the Mend" and especially "Memphis" that evoke vivid images of America's past and present. The Ash & Clay is an album sure to become increasingly meaningful with time. (Anti)