Review by: Al Kaufman
Led by bands such as Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, folk-rock is enjoying a revival. People keep coming back to the earthiness of the music. The songs are pretty and melodic, with lots of harmonies and enough hooks to stay wedged between your ears for a few days, or at least until the next listen.
This re-emergence of folk-rock can only be a good thing for the Milk Carton Kids. With The Ash & Clay, the duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have created a timeless, if minimalist, selection of songs bathed in harmonies and sweet guitar sounds.
Pattengale and Ryan harmonize like Simon and Garfunkel, to the point where their two voices almost sound like one. Whether it be over open and rich guitar sounds, such as on “Hope of a Lifetime”, or on gentle bluegrass numbers like “Honey, Honey” and “Heaven”, (“They promised me Heaven, I was hoping for something more.”) their voices take center stage.
And therein lies the trouble with The Ash & Clay. There is only so much that can be done with minimalist folk. They add that touch of aforementioned bluegrass, and “Snake Eyes” takes on a ghostly eeriness that their Anti- label-mate, Jolie Holland, is known for, but mostly the CD just moves on, from one pretty little song to the next. It becomes so calming that it is almost jarring when a song such as “Promised Land” or “On the Mend” kicks in, if only because they do not harmonize, making the songs feel even more minimalist. The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons understand that sometimes they need to kick out at least one jam or two just to keep people listening. The Milk Carton Kids sometimes seem content to just disappear.