Fresh off their sold out tour with John Prine, twice Grammy-nominated harmony duo The Milk Carton Kids hits the Fox stage on their summer tour with music from their soon to be released album, “All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do,” from ANTI-Records on June 29th. With pure tones and moving voices, The Milk Carton Kids know how to capture the quiet dynamics of every song as their guitars and gorgeous harmonies weave a spell that is captivating audiences from coast to coast.
The new project marks the first time that acoustic duo Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have brought a band into the studio with them. “We wanted to do something new,” Pattengale says. “Musically we knew we were going to make the record with a bigger sonic palette,” says Ryan. “It was liberating to know we wouldn’t have to be able to carry every song with just our two guitars.”
Since their last studio album, “Monterey,” life has changed dramatically for The Milk Carton Kids. Pattengale has moved to, and is now producing records in Nashville. Ryan is now the father of two children and works as a producer on “Live from Here with Chris Thile,” the reboot of “A Prairie Home Companion.” A break from years of non-stop touring, Ryan says, has yielded “space outside of the band that gives us perspective on what the band is.“
But it’s not just the addition of the band here that creates something new. National politics left Ryan feeling disoriented and mournful. Pattengale’s relationship of seven years ended, and he found himself unexpectedly needing surgery for cancer. (He is cancer-free now, and accidentally broke his cigarette habit in the process).
For “All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do,” a theme of shattered realities began to emerge out of the songs that sparked to life. Recent events provided a bruising background for the record, yet the project is somehow bigger than any personal grief. Two-part harmonies ride acoustic guitars high above the haunting landscape created by the presence of the band, as if Americana went searching for a lost America.
Cultural purveyors from Garrison Keillor to T Bone Burnett to Billy Bragg have hailed the duo’s importance among a group of new folk bands, both expanding and contradicting the rich tradition that precedes them. Yet while some of the band’s many accolades reference a specific genre, the duo quickly transcends those tags with clear inflections of jazz, classical, even the dark lyricism of modern “alternative.”