When I stepped into LA’s charming Largo at the Coronet on Tuesday night, I unknowingly stumbled into a vortex of timelessness with The Milk Carton Kids, a folk duo (Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale) originally from Los Angeles, now New York-based. Although I’d heard their praises sung from a reliable source and listened to their songs online (they give away all their music HERE), I must admit I had reserved a skosh of skepticism about a couple of singer/songwriter guys with their guitars providing anything much beyond a potentially monotonous, nevertheless enjoyable, evening’s entertainment. Well holy-lujah! The Kids came through with a remarkably engaging, crisp performance. From their opening with an especially charged New York, to the mellifluous, Patsy Cline-evoking Stealing Romance somewhere in the middle, ’till the last drop with their somber, tentatively titled, Memphis, The Milk Carton Kids pleasantly commanded the presence of my attention and that of my fellow patrons, who appeared to range in age from under two to about ninety-two, in the nearly-full house. Threading the exquisite foursome of Pattengale’s impeccable vocals, his virtuosic, quadruple-time picking, Ryan’s magnetically honest voice plus steady rhythm strumming, the pair’s Smothers-esque banter cleverly enlivened the show, which the boys rounded out for good measure aesthetically by wearing comfy-looking, matching suits and employing a well-placed, handsome prop bag.
Pattengale and Ryan most certainly have their act together. After more than 140 gigs straight, they know what’s working. Still, not only does their love of the sport bubble over as they play, but their humility refreshingly matches the perfection they’ve been busy honing.
High from experiencing The Milk Carton Kids live, I knew at first gaze outside the venue, when the larger-than-life ‘live nude girls girls girls’ sign across the way rudely inserted itself without ruffling my poise, that I’d neither been transported temporarily to another time frame nor lost myself to an emotional, music-induced reverie; rather, I had participated by warm invitation in the delightfully rich, intelligent world of the folk duo’s flawless contemporary musical gems.
It’s heartening to see great musicians taking off. Given favorable planetary alignment, these guys might just be able to save the world.
Check out more awesome photos at their Tumbler page. Listen to The Milk Carton Kids on NPR’s Mountain Stage. And, until you can get to a show, please don’t forget to listen to their albums, which you can download free HERE.
Listen again …