I was unfamiliar with the Milk Carton Kids before seeing them on NPR. I had always assumed they were a punk band with a name like that. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The Milk Carton kids are a delightful folk duo. And they give the origin of their band name a little later in the Concert.
Joey Ryan sings lead and plays rhythm acoustic guitar. Kenneth Pattengale plays lead guitar and sings beautiful harmonies. It’s his guitar work that is so disarming because he plays leads throughout the songs, so rather than having the two guitars doing the same thing, his guitar is all over the place–playing beautiful trills and lines while Ryan is singing.
The first song they play is “Michigan.” I love how in the middle of the song between the melodies and the harmonies it sounds like about three different bands—there’s a kind of Simon & Garfunkel vibe, a Jayhawks vibe, and maybe even a CS&N vibe–and yet it retains their original sound. There’s some beautiful melodies in the vocals and the lyrics are really good (but sad).
After the song, Bob asks about the neckerchief on Kenneth’s guitar. he says, “well it looks good.”
Then he explains that in a technical way, “This guitar is a bit crummy.” When they play higher chords the strings buzz, so the neckerchief keeps that from happening: “It’s practical and it’s alluring—this is what got Stephen to stop at our concert to listen.”
Kenneth then says that Joey usually talks more than this “I don’t know why he’s so demure today.” Joey deadpans, “I don’t know what demure means, but I’m, sorry if that’s how I’m behaving.”
Before the next song, Joey deadpans, “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Hence our palpable excitement.”
They’re very happy to be behind this desk so “We’ll play you a love song to the desk. This song is called ‘To the Desk.'” The song is actually called “Stealing Romance.” They sing a duet with Ken taking the high notes. It’s a slow ballad. During the song you can hear all kinds of sirens going past the offices. When it ends, Ken says, “I think Joe Biden drove down the street during that one.” Joey reacts: “Who’s that?”
Then Joey explains the origins of their band name Milk Carton Kids. The name comes from one of their songs “Milk Carton Kid.” The song itself is named after a lyric in the song. He says it’s an attempt to answer the question that’s one everyone’s mind with a completely unsatisfactory answer. Then he says they’re not going to play that song.
Rather, they play “their happy song” “I Still Want A Little More”which proves to be really fast and uptempo—a real surprise after the other two songs. Ken is wailing away on his guitar while they sing in great harmony. There’s some rollicking guitars and singing. This is my favorite song of the three.
I don’t love their slower songs. Although as far as slow songs go, their setup is great–the harmonies, the interesting guitar. But I really like the two of them. They are great performers and excellent storytellers.
[READ: July 20, 2016] “Checking Out”
This story is bookended with a man planning on marrying woman.
Obinze is African, and he is in London on a work visa. He is arranging a sham marriage to be able to stay in the country. The arrangement has been set up by some Angolans. They claim that he is a friend of a friend and they’re doing him a favor, but they are keeping lot of the money that is meant to go to his bride.
When he met Cleotilde, he was surprised to see that she was young and pretty. And it seemed that she was pleased with him when she saw him as well-0ff. I guess expectations are pretty low in this situation. He was kind to her from the start, making sure that she was okay doing this. And she said she was–she really needs the money for her family.
Obinzne and Cleo meet up a few times to get their details straight, and he finds that he is really falling for her–although he knows he can’t really act on it until after the marriage. (more…)