Lyricist: The Milk Carton Kids.
Personnel: Ken Pattengale, Joey Ryan (guitar).
Audio Mixer: Ryan Freeland.
Liner Note Author: Joe Henry.
Recording information: Stampede Origin Studios, Culver City, CA (09/??/2012-09/07/2012).
The Ash & Clay, the second studio album from Los Angeles-based acoustic duo the Milk Carton Kids, offers up 12 no-frills slabs of vintage Greenwich Village-inspired folk that blends the close harmony singing of Simon & Garfunkel with the technical acumen of the Punch Brothers. A live staple at L.A. folk and comedy clubs, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan are known as much for their Smothers Brothers-esque banter as they are for their music, but The Ash & Clay steers clear of any shenanigans, relying heavily on classic folk tropes like love ("Honey, Honey"), heartbreak ("Years Gone By"), religion ("On the Mend"), and politics ("The Ash & Clay"), effortlessly bandying about non-specific beatnik vernacular like a pair of well-read, mock turtleneck-wearing, MacDougal Street time travelers. Standout cuts like the velvety waltz "Snake Eyes," with its parlor-gospel underpinnings and winking proclamation of "Slow, holy roller/It's just rock and roll," the wistful, Gillian Welch/Avett Brothers-infused opener "Hope of a Lifetime," and "Memphis," an evocative, impossibly lonesome, last-smoke-of-the-evening meditation on Paul Simon's "Graceland" ("This ain't a trip with my son/There's no guitar shines in the sun") succeed by invoking the duo's heroes without replicating their idiosyncrasies. ~ James Christopher Monger