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Milk Carton Kids find themselves on "Monterey"

By Brian Baker, June 2015

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At that point, the Milk Carton Kids had notched good reviews for their debut (2011's live "Retrospect" as Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan) and their next two albums (as MCK: 2011's "Prologue" and 2013's "The Ash & Clay"), but HBO's presentation of "Another Day, Another Time" catapulted them, and many others, into a brighter and more expansive spotlight.

"It was this crazy phenomenon of exposure that only television as a medium is capable of," says Ryan. "People see you in a very particular light that they find compelling and it translates into this launching pad for (Carolina Chocolate Drops' front woman) Rhiannon (Giddens) and for us. I know it happened for Lake Street Dive, who were featured, and I think the Punch Brothers benefitted greatly from being in the film."

"But all that is a testament to T Bone Burnett and the Coen brothers. I mean, they cut Elvis Costello out of that film in favor of giving all of us these long feature segments. It's not because they don't love Elvis Costello, it's just that they thought there was something compelling about the younger bands' performances and they were trying to make the best concert film they could make."

Like many folk duos over the years, Ryan and Pattengale have complimentary guitar styles and possess almost otherworldly harmonic vocal skills (think Everly Brothers), and those attributes have made the Milk Carton Kids one of the premiere acts on and beyond the neo-folk circuit. But when Ryan considers the qualities that he and Pattengale possess collectively that aren't present individually, his answer is shockingly honest.

"It sounds cliché, but everything," says Ryan. "There's a self-awareness and an ability to edit and improve on our work. I guess we function as a mirror for each other, which makes us much more able to see what it us that each one of us is doing right and what each of us is doing wrong, and get rid of or minimize the things we're doing wrong and enhance and accentuate the things we're doing right. I feel very much like both us are half an artist and when we come together, maybe we approximate something like a full one."

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