Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Dec 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Building Harmony

milkcartonFolk duo the Milk Carton Kids takes success one step at a time

Since forming in 2011, Americana/folk duo the Milk Carton Kids have released three albums, including 2013’s The Ash & Clay—and to hear Joey Ryan tell it, that album was the culmination of a gradual growing process that had been slowly building up on their first two records.

“The first thing [Kenneth Pattengale and I] did together was [2011’s] Retrospect, which was songs we’d written separately, and arranged for the duo and performed together,” he says. “And then [2012’s] Prologue was the first time we’d written together for the duo, but still, a lot of them felt like one or the other of our songs, where one person would take the lead and there would be harmonies on the choruses.”

Once it came time to write Ash, they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish, and how they would make that happen.

“We wanted to push the limits of the duo, so the vast majority of the songs on The Ash & Clay have two-part harmonies the whole way through instead of just bringing in a harmony on the chorus,” Ryan says. “And we’d given ourselves the mandate to be more outward-facing in the perspective we were writing from. [Many] of the songs have to do with characters which are not us, and point to various social or philosophical ideas, rather than introspective and emotional themes, like what we had done before.”

Ash is guided by an indelible sense of melody, both with respect to vocals and melodies. Whether it is the more upbeat folk of “Hope of a Lifetime,” or more measured, easygoing folk tracks like “Hear Them Loud” or “Memphis,” the album is a truly stirring piece of work. And even on “Heaven”—a dizzying track which is marked by groovy, funky notes, and Ryan and Pattengale singing at their loudest, sounding like a two-man Holy Ghost Party—they demonstrate their ability to get you dancing. It makes for a nice juxtaposition with some of the album’s more serious content, like the album’s title track, which quietly bemoans the sad state of affairs in America. Getting to explore broader themes than they had in the past—especially when they were solo singer-songwriters who were focusing largely on writing about their emotions and feelings—was freeing for the duo.

“It was liberating, motivating,” Ryan says. “I don’t think it was challenging. I don’t think [Ash] is a political record. Some of the songs are just about personal relationships and people, and there is introspection for sure, but at some point we just started to think of ourselves as teammates and we pushed each other in that direction. We welcomed the pressure and came up with some songs we wouldn’t otherwise have come up with.”

Despite the growth that Ryan and Pattengale display on Ash however, Ryan does not revel in their progress as a band. He avoids patting himself on the back almost to the point of being self-effacing with respect to the band. This unwillingness to draw attention to himself is perhaps what keeps him grounded enough to not buy into the Grammy-nominated band’s hype, or the fact that they were recently nominated by the Americana Music Association for Best Duo/Group.

“I think [the album is] a logical step, and not a big step, either,” says Ryan. “We still stuck with two guitars and two voices, and a lot of the basics of the dynamic between us are preserved. If you listen to Prologue and then The Ash & Clay, I don’t think it could be said to be a departure. It was a small step forward. It was what I expected out of us.”


The Milk Carton Kids will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25-$35. 427-2227.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire