The history of folk and pop music is littered with gorgeous intertwined voices: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Jayhawks' Mark Olson and Gary Louris, and many others have found their own delicate blend of chemistry and charisma. The Milk Carton Kids' Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale operate in those pairs' rich tradition, singing sweet but intricate songs of melancholy when they're not dishing playful banter between songs.
Ryan and Pattengale get a lot done with subtle gestures — their ballads, like "Michigan" and "Stealing Romance" here, have a way of smoothing over many of their moving parts — but there's real sophistication to the three gorgeous songs they recently performed in the NPR Music offices. Even their dryly funny conversational patter has a way of commanding attention through the expenditure of as little apparent energy as possible; with his still, mischievous shyness, Ryan in particular comes off like a less antic Tommy Smothers.
Given that both of The Milk Carton Kids' albums are available for free download on the band's website, live performances like these are crucial to the pair's financial survival. This warmly charming 15-minute set makes as powerful an argument as any that Ryan and Pattengale were wise to bet on themselves.
- "Stealing Romance"
- "I Still Want A Little More"
Producer: Stephen Thompson; Editors: Bob Boilen and Nick Michael; Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Emily Bogle/NPR