With their second studio release, The Milk Carton Kids have solidified themselves as yet another 60’s folk revival group that would be as at home in Washington Square Park as onstage at your local coffee house. Simplicity is the name of the game as the group is actually a duo that combines the harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel with high range finger picking.
The Ash & Clay, the duo’s first release on Anti Records, sticks to traditional folk music themes like love (“Honey, Honey”), loss (“Whisper in Her Ear”) and even a political anti war tune (“Ash & Clay”) that could have just as easily been written in reference to the Vietnam War as to the actual subject.
“Memphis” truly showcases the skillful guitar work present throughout the album and the opening track “Hope Of A Lifetime” evokes Greenwich Village and the roots of what we know as modern folk music.
Nostalgia is the blueprint on The Ash & Clay and Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan who share both guitar and singing duties, succeed in eliciting memories of a time gone by when music was more than simply whomping electronic synthesizers and 808 drum kits.
Unfortunately, for all their musical talent, the California based duo comes up rather short in the lyrical creativity department. The album as a whole feels rather tired and hackneyed folk cliches are omnipresent across the 12 tracks, leaving listeners somewhere between disappointment and frustration. The duo, who are typically known for their on stage banter between songs and leave fans desiring more of the spirit present in their witty repartee to reveal itself in the lyrics which are so unoriginal that at times the listener is left to wonder if they are actually hearing a parody of a folk album due to lyrics like “I’ll never hold/Young hearts grown old/I don’t know myself anymore” from “Years Gone By” and “It only takes a moment for a lifetime to go by/It only takes a moment for the changing of the signs” from “The Jewel of June.”
In addition to the lyrical short comings of the album, the songs seem to blend together at points as the duo very rarely venture outside of their comfort zone in terms of tempo for the most part, with all songs blending together as mellow fireside folk. Although aesthetically pleasing throughout, the regurgitated folk tunes ring trite and listeners are left longing for something more substantial by and large.