|The Milk Carton Kids|
|All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do|
The Milk Carton Kids — All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do ★⦿★ It helps that, while their influences haven’t gotten lost, Ryan and Pattengale have long since acquired a willingness to stretch out creatively. Take the Joe Henry~produced All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do, whose centerpiece (“One More for the Road”) spans more than 10 minutes as the pair reflect on a desire to prolong a doomed relationship just a little bit longer. Even for a song about lingering, it takes its time — with the help of a full band, a welcome addition — and gathers emotional heft along the way.
★⦿★ In many ways, All the Things That I Did... is meant to reflect several years’ worth of upheaval in the duo’s lives, from Ryan having kids to Pattengale surviving cancer and ending a relationship. Together, they’ve written a batch of wearily delicate (and, in the case of the rambling and rootsy “Big Time,” zingy) songs about major transitions — both personally and, in “Mourning in America,” politically. But the darkness that seeps in is leavened, as always, by the sun~dappled beauty of two voices, perfectly paired.
Location: Eagle Rock, California, United States
Album release: June 29, 2018
Record Label: ANTI–/Epitaph
01. Just Look at Us Now 3:05
02. Nothing Is Real 2:44
03. Younger Years 3:50
04. Mourning in America 3:04
05. You Break My Heart 2:26
06. Blindness 4:15
07. One More for the Road 10:23
08. Big Time 5:40
09. A Sea of Roses 3:20
10. Unwinnable War 4:20
11. I’ve Been Loving You 3:46
12. All the Things... 4:46
Members: Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale
⦿ The Milk Carton Kids are Kenneth Pattengale & Joey Ryan
⦿ Kenneth Pattengale plays a 1954 Martin 0~15
⦿ Joey Ryan plays a 1951 Gibson J45
⦿ Photography by Megan Baker
⦿ Package Design by D.R. Caulwell
⦿ Assistant Engineer — Dustin Richardson
⦿ Studio Assistant — Michelle Freetly
⦿ Music Transcription — Tyler Combs
⦿ Produced by Joe Henry
⦿ Engineered by Ryan Freeland
⦿ Mixed by Kenneth Pattengale
⦿ Mastered by Kim Rosen
• ALL THE THINGS THAT I DID and ALL THE THINGS THAT I DIDN’T DO
was recorded between October 15, 2017 and October 26, 2017 in The Sun Room at House of Blues Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
by Sam Shepherd | first published: 28 Jun 2018 | Score: ★★★★
★⦿★ Adversity and change have long provided the impetus for country music and since The Milk Carton Kids’ last album, Monterey, the duo have gone through a number of life changing events; Joey Ryan welcomed his second child into the world, whilst Kenneth Pattengale overcame cancer and went through the breakup of his seven~year relationship. As a group, The Milk Carton Kids have expanded from a duo to a full band for their latest album, All The Things I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do. A wealth of upheaval and experience to draw on should provide a firm basis for a classic album, and The Milk Carton Kids don’t disappoint.
★⦿★ Long term fans of the duo shouldn’t panic about Ryan and Pattengale’s decision to bring a band onboard, for their music is still just as delicate and intricate as it ever was. The expanded sound suits them perfectly, giving them wider scope and allowing the duo to realise their artistic vision.
★⦿★ The centrepiece of the album is the 10~minute epic One More For The Road. Sprawling and heartbreaking, it finds the pair utilising nuance wonderfully. A mournful shuffle with ghostly interjections from the pedal steel, it gets under your skin before heading into a lengthy and hypnotic jam section that The Doors would have been proud of. If the house band at the Last Chance Saloon were playing this at last orders, there’d be no doubt that once that final shot of whisky is finished, the end is waiting just the other side of the bar’s exit sign. Yet, as apocalyptic as the song sounds, Ryan and Pattengale’s beautifully entwined vocals offer comfort. They might suggest that the world is cold, but there’s warmth in those harmonies.
★⦿★ It’s not all end of the world dirge. Big Time makes full use of the fiddle and pulls the band into slightly more upbeat territory. “This’ll be the last time we’re gonna walk a straight line… this’ll be the last time we’re gonna have a big time” might be drawing a line, but at least there’s a good send off before any new beginnings. You Break My Heart is classic country in terms of subject matter but it also captures the spirit of Hank Williams and releases it gently. Mourning In America seems to pull on Randy Newman and Paul Simon for influences as it dissects the end of a relationship and pits that experience against hearing the news of a new tragedy. Naturally it’s one of the highlights on an album filled with slow burning gems.
★⦿★ Contemplating life and death are, understandably, themes that run throughout the album. A Sea Of Roses ruminates on dying, and although lines like “I’m scared that when I die, I’ll be alone with noone sitting by my side” are filled with fear, the wonderful vocal interplay between the duo elevates the song’s introspection into something like euphoric acceptance. “Lay me down in the ground, put me back into the earth amongst all of my friends, under a blanket of roses” might appear somewhat morbid when merely written down, but somehow they make it sound like something to look forward to.
★⦿★ The title track seems to hint at the aftermath and need to purge everything after a terrible diagnosis. It looks back over the course of a relationship; the good and the bad, the hurt and the good times. What makes it hit home so powerfully is the details in the lyrics and the subtlety of the accompaniment. There’s a palpable sense of love, loss and fear. It’d take a hard heart not to choke up a little when the cello swells and the line “for all of the times that I counted the lines in your hair as you slept by my side” is delivered with genuine emotion. It even ends with what sounds like an allusion to Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, which adds a little knowing wink and a brief injection of dark humour, right at the close of an album packed with songs created by a duo trying to make sense of the world.
★⦿★ All The Things That I Did… takes a little time to truly unfurl, but over time it opens out into a wonderful, if occasionally heartbreaking gem. Thankfully, this is an album that The Milk Carton Kids can’t include on their list of things that they didn’t do.
★ 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. “We had been going around the country yet another time to do the duo show, going to the places we’d been before. There arose some sort of need for change.”
★ “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 (ANTI– 2015), 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.)
★ Though they didn’t approach the new album conceptually, 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.
★ Produced by Joe Henry and engineered by Ryan Freeland, All the Things That I Did and All The Things That I Didn’t Do was recorded in October 2017 in the Sun Room at House of Blues Studio in Nashville. Musicians who joined them there included Brittany Haas on violin and mandolin, Paul Kowert and Dennis Crouch on bass, Jay Bellerose on drums, Levon Henry on clarinet and saxophone, Nat Smith on cello, Pat Sansone on piano, mellotron, and Hammond organ, Russ Pahl on pedal steel and other guitars and Lindsay Lou and Logan Ledger as additional singers. Mixed by Pattengale, the album was mastered by Kim Rosen.
|The Milk Carton Kids|
|All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do|