The Milk Carton Kids are an American indie folk duo from Eagle Rock, California, United States, consisting of singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who formed the group in early 2011. The Grammy-nominated, flat-picking harmony duo have since emerged as a powerful voice defining the continuing folk tradition whose virtuosity defines The Milk Carton Kids to the delight of both traditionalists and newcomers to the folk movement alike. NPR has described their approach to music as "gorgeous contemporary folk" and "Gillian Welch & David Rawlings-meets-Simon & Garfunkel with a splash of The Everly Brothers", which fairly represents the band's music while also appealing to the intended audience. The band has recorded and released four albums: Retrospect, Prologue, The Ash & Clay and Monterey. The forewords to both Prologue and The Ash & Clay were written by singer-songwriter and producer Joe Henry. The band is noted for releasing their first two albums for free and for playing their vintage guitars; Ryan playing a 1951 Gibson J-45 and Pattengale a 1954 Martin 0-15. The band's general manager is Nick Bobetsky.
Artists Ryan and Pattengale formed a duo after Ryan attended a solo performance by Pattengale in their shared hometown. "Both had long and largely unsuccessful careers as solo performers behind them, and each had reached a professional crossroads", which led them to form the musical duo now known as The Milk Carton Kids. The Milk Carton Kids released Retrospect, a live album recorded in Ventura, CA, in March 2011. Retrospect predates the band name, and was released under Kenneth Pattengale & Joey Ryan. After performing at SXSW in March 2011, The Milk Carton Kids joined Joe Purdy's North American tour as his opening act and backing band.
Musical style and influence
Grammy-nominated flat-picking harmony duo The Milk Carton Kids have emerged in the last three years as a powerful voice defining the continuing folk tradition.
A refreshing alternative to the foot-stomping grandeur of the so-called folk revival, an understated virtuosity defines The Milk Carton Kids to the delight of traditionalists and newcomers to the folk movement alike. Indeed, Garrison Keillor has called them "absolute geniuses in close-harmony", and has invited them onto A Prairie Home Companion three times in 2013, while cultural purveyors like T Bone Burnett and Billy Bragg continue to refer the importance of The Milk Carton Kids among a group of new folk bands expanding and contradicting the rich tradition that precedes them.
The Los Angeles Times lauds their Anti- Records release The Ash & Clay (March 26, 2013) as displaying absolute mastery of their craft while Paste emphasizes the "intellectual sophistication of their songs".
The Milk Carton Kids released Prologue, their first studio album and the first release under the band's name, on July 19, 2011. Following Prologue's release, The Milk Carton Kids headlined a North American tour. From Prologue, their song "There By Your Side" was named National Public Radio's Song of the Day. The San Francisco Chronicle referred to Prologue as "bittersweet and beautiful." "Grammy-winning piano-pop star Sara Bareilles gave the band a tremendous boost via Twitter by stating 'Do yourself a favor and pick up the Milk Carton Kids's new record. Wow'". This social media compliment gave The Milk Carton Kids a stronger fan base and increased popularity within the indie music realm. Both Prologue and Retrospect are offered up for free download on The Milk Carton Kids' website. By the end of 2011, fans had downloaded the two albums over 60,000 times for free, by February 2014 this figure had reached 275,000. Prologue was chosen for the year-end lists of Daytrotter, American Songwriter, About.com, and others.
The Ash & Clay
On March 26, 2013, the band's album The Ash & Clay was released on ANTI- records. Promotion for the album included touring with Austin-based artist Sarah Jarosz and a November taping of Austin City Limits.
Awards and recognitions
The Milk Carton Kids' 2013 album, The Ash and Clay, received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Folk Album of 2013, in addition to receiving a nomination for Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2013 Americana Music Honors & Awards.
In 2014 they won Duo/Group of the Year by the Americana Music Association.
Appearances and performances
The Milk Carton Kids have performed on National Public Radio's Mountain Stage, Daytrotter, and were guest DJ hosts on Sirius/XM's folk channel The Village. The duo toured on July/August 2012 with Old Crow Medicine Show (supporting their new album Carry Me Back) and The Lumineers. The tour visited such cities as: Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville, Richmond, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Atlanta. In the fall of 2012, they toured America again with L.A.-based Leslie Stevens opening and in November 2012, they began their tour with the Punch Brothers. In December 2012, three unreleased tracks ("Snake Eyes", "The Ash & Clay" and "Jewel of June") were featured in Gus Van Sant's film Promised Land, starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
They were also featured in T Bone Burnett & The Coen Brothers' concert film documentary, Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis , alongside Joan Baez, Jack White, Gillian Welch, Marcus Mumford, Punch Brothers and many other folk luminaries and upstarts.
After the 2013 release of The Ash & Clay they appeared on a number of TV and Radio performances including Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, CBS This Morning, and Conan.
On April 29, 2014 National Public Radio released a full concert DVD, Live at Lincoln Theatre.
On April 11–12, 2014, The Milk Carton Kids collaborated with Joe Henry and Over the Rhine for a two night live performance & recording of all new songs inspired by "the Great American Songbook." An album of the collaboration may be forthcoming but no date has been set at this time.