LIVE: The Milk Carton Kids @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 5/19/16
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The Milk Carton Kids boil their music down to it bare essence… two voices, two acoustic guitars, one microphone.
Minimalist? Yeah, but that’s all that Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale needed to mesmerize the crowd at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall during their recent Local 518 debut.
No video screens, no flashing lights, no bells, no whistles, not even a back-up guitar on stage…
The California duo’s spare but hardly simplistic 90-minute performance sparkled with a captivating blend of bluegrass, folk and country music.
The songs were almost uniformly rootsy, yet poetic, and they ranged from the bluegrass-flavored, uptempo romp through “The City of Our Lady” to the Mexican-spiced ballad “Monterey” to the wistful waltz “Stealing Romance.”
And while Ryan anchored the songs with solid rhythm guitar, Pattendale’s flatpicking skills were not only agile and dizzyingly dexterous, but also tasteful. With the white kerchief tied around the end of his guitar neck, it was as though the guitar was surrendering to Pattengale’s mastery right from the start with the opening “Hope of a Lifetime.”
While their songs exhibited a darker attitude, the duo also showcased a wry, deadpan sense of humor, and Ryan was on target with a hilarious monologue about the trials of childbirth… from the father’s point of view.
However, all of those crucial elements of musicianship and showmanship took a back seat to the duo’s exquisitely intertwined vocal harmonies.
Comparisons to the golden Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme/Bookends-era of Simon & Garfunkle were obvious, but their intimate, haunting harmonies also resonated with echoes of the Everly Brothers, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings and the great bluegrass brother acts of yore… even during the thoroughly unexpected, brilliantly re-invented final encore of the night Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
As the mis-matched opening act, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy offered a 35-minute solo set of songs culled primarily from her album debut, Emotions and Math, but accompanying herself with a slightly distorted electric guitar, she left the songs feeling somewhat incomplete.
Excerpt from Kirsten Ferguson’s review at The Daily Gazette: “At times, the cumulative effect of their soothing melodies on nostalgic songs like ‘The City of Our Lady,’ ‘Years Gone By,’ ‘The Ash & Clay’ and ‘Memphis’ could be slightly sleep inducing, as the minimalist tunes varied little in tempo or tone. They were at their most rousing on ‘Honey, Honey,’ which drew hearty applause. The thoughtful ‘I Still Want a Little More,’ enlivened by some flashy guitar work by Pattengale, closed out the set, before the duo returned for a single encore of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here,’ a song that sounded especially spare yet beautiful in their treatment.”
THE MILK CARTON KIDS SET LIST
Hope of a Lifetime
The City of Our Lady
Years Gone By
The Ash & Clay
Girls, Gather ‘Round
I Still Want a Little More
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
MARGARET GLASPY SET LIST
Somebody to Anybody
Emotions and Math
Fruits of My Labor (Lucinda Williams)
Now Matter Who
(new, as yet untitled)
Love Like This
You and I