What’s In a Name? Or, a 59 Year Old Songwriter Finds the Milk Carton Kids

 “Gillian Welch & David Rawlings-meets-Simon & 

Garfunkel with a splash of The Everly Brothers

I am and always have loved the process of how books, music, ideas and people find me.  Life, for the most part, is an odd assortment of intentional seeking and being found.  Some people major on the former, others on the latter.  Freedom and providence is what we call it in theology.  Too much of either leads to bad theology and a distortion of reality. This is about “how the Milk Carton Kids Found Me.”  I love music.  Two of my parishioners, Kenny and Katherine Worley, love the Milk Carton Kids.  I love Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  They figured, “he might like the MCK 800px-The_Milk_Carton_Kids(Milk Carton Kids from now on!).  So they had an extra ticket and invited me to Workplay,  a great venue in Birmingham.  I listened to them on YouTube, of course, but I was distracted by the handkerchief Pattengale tied to his Martin 000-15 and waved in a circular motion that reminds me of David Rawlings so much.  I came ready to dismiss them as wannabes, to tell you the truth.  I was so wrong. Wikipedia’s article about them describes them as:

…an indie folk duo from Eagle RockCalifornia, consisting of singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who formed the group in early 2011. NPR has described their approach to music as “gorgeous contemporary folk”[1]and “Gillian Welch & David Rawlings-meets-Simon & Garfunkel with a splash of The Everly Brothers“, which fairly represents the band’s music while also appealing to the intended audience[i]

The Milk Carton Kids. They obviously read lots of books

Fair enough.  I arrived, enjoyed my friends the Worleys for a while, then the set started after the opening act.  For the next couple of hours, I was mesmerized by song after song.  Welch and Rawlings are much more gloomy, sad, somber, and those are the happy songs.  Perfect for people my age and their aches pains and broken hearts.  The Kids, on the other hand, sing thoughtful just the same, but hopefulness breaks through a lot more often.

I was charmed by “Charley,” about a little girl Pattengale hoped to have one day, once he finds a girl and marries her! Sweet and touching.  But they do moody reflective as well, as in “The Ash and Clay”

the swing sets are empty like dirt turned the dark of the night the center of this town it used to whirl in the glow of twilight it might look like God’s away with all the trouble these days we’ll come home before the girls are grown we’re coming home tonight

what, oh, have we done to run this country into such a sight stolen from our brothers like we couldn’t find a fair enough fight you wait on promise you will say won’t forsake the ash and clay let’s come home before the girls are grown let’s come home to fight

Yes, there’s a lot of Welch and Rawlings’ shadow here.  But their own perspectives, personalities and playing are more present.  Smart, well-read, funny, so funny.  Joey Ryan’s deadpan persona keeps audiences in stitches throughout and Pattengale can’t help laughing no matter how many times I suspect he’s heard the bits.  Their rich musicianship is understated, complex, but never intruding on the song. I went straight home, inspired, uplifted, reflective, and bought “The Ash and Clay,” their third CD.  That says, “I like you a lot.”  I did and I think there’s a bright future here.  They are worth an evening of your finite time on earth. LISTEN to “Honey, Honey” Their website is http://www.themilkcartonkids.com

Published by

Gary Furr

Gary is a musician, writer and Christian minister living in Alabama.