milk carton kids

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale (left to right) are the Milk Carton Kids. The band performed at the Crystal Palace last week. 

If Simon & Garfunkel ever had a child, either collectively, individually or with other people, it would be The Milk Carton Kids, scheduled to play at the Crystal Palace on Oct. 3. Just as country is king in some quarters, then harmony, melody and lyrical excellence sits on the throne for the Grammy-nominated duo — Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale — from Eagle Rock, Calif.

Close your eyes and listen to the song “Younger Years” and not only are you glad Simon & Garfunkel paved the way but that The Milk Carton Kids found the road in 2011 and kept on walking.

I’ve done a few interviews but never had one like the interview with Joey Ryan. I was armed with the usual litany of stock questions — who are you listening to, what are you reading, what was your greatest moment on stage — but we ended up talking about tennis for 10 of the 20 minutes (Ryan was an outstanding junior tennis player before he found music) and then the last 10 minutes about raising kids (he has a 5-year-old and a 2-year old).

“Kids haven’t changed the music yet, but all the chips are definitely on the table,” Ryan said. “I’m finding that kids are more of a logistical and janitorial endeavor.”

“Logistical and janitorial endeavor"? That was a fresh take on raising children but that would describe a group that has had two Grammy nominations, headlines festivals all over the world, hosted the Americana Music Awards this year and performs once a month in a variety show of music and standup comedy at Largo in L.A.

“Comedy is a good delivery system for difficult emotions and ideas,” Ryan said. “You can exaggerate the truth in a cathartic way.”

This is to say the songs are not funny but in between the songs the duo are funny in a smart, Smothers Brothers kind of way. The men are a throwback and seem much wiser than their 30-something years.

Wiser and different, it seems, than most successful bands.

“We’re trying to do music in a sustainable way,” Ryan said. “The touring life is brutal and we don’t want to be away from home more than 100 days a year, and even that’s a lot.”

This is their first time in Bakersfield and, along the lines of not delivering stock answers, Ryan said, “The Bakersfield Sound is not an influence in our music and, in fact, we missed the whole thing.”

Ryan lives in Sherman Oaks and in addition to this band, works as a producer on "Live from Here with Chris Thile," the reboot of "A Prairie Home Companion.” Pattengale has moved to Nashville and is producing records there.

The band's new record, "The Only Ones," is out Oct. 18.

Herb Benham can be reached at 661-395-7279; he is a partner in Passing Through Productions, which, in concert with Rick Kreiser and Guitar Masters, is bringing The Milk Carton Kids to Bakersfield.

(1) comment

Susan S

I’m so looking forward to this. We saw them in LA earlier this year and loved them!

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