The Milk Carton Kids with Vera Sola
The Milk Carton Kids, Americana Music Association winners of Best Duo/Group of the Year and two-time Grammy Award nominees (Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance), to perform on 2/27 in the Longworth-Anderson Series at beautifully-renovated, historic Memorial Hall.
The band has recorded and released five albums: Retrospect, Prologue, The Ash & Clay, Monterey, and All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do, which arrived from ANTI- Records in June 2018. The new album marks the first time that acoustic duo Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have brought a band into the studio with them, and this tour is their first to integrate the full band.
But it’s not just the addition of the band that creates something new. Though they didn’t approach the 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.
If previous Milk Carton Kids productions recall plaintive missives from a faraway hometown, these songs sound more intimate, like a tragic midnight knock at your front door. The album ricochets between familiar styles and experimental songs. Inside the theme of shattered realities that wires the album together, even elliptical songs somehow become direct. The atmosphere on much of the album is both lush and spare, like waking up at night to find yourself on an ice floe that has drifted far from shore.
Defying the conventions of melody and harmony is a strategy The Milk Carton Kids have consciously embraced.
“There are only so many things you can do alone in life that allow you to transcend your sense of self for even a short period,” Pattengale says. “I’m the lucky recipient of a life in which for hundreds of times, day after day, I get to spend an hour that is like speaking a language only two people know and doing it in a space with others who want to hear it.”
By extending that language to a band and reimagining the boundaries around what acoustic-centered two-part harmony can sound like, the album carries listeners down a river and out into the open sea.
Vera Sola is a poet, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist.
A drifter performing her own songs alone in and out of dark bars under various pseudonyms, Vera Sola toured and recorded with a variety of artists, for a long while accompanying singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins on the road. She has in turn collaborated on film scores and provided original music for theater and performance art.
In early 2017, she experienced a total shift in relation to her voice and musicianship, and only then was she finally compelled to record and release her own songs. In the days following, hiding out in a studio in St. Louis, she wrote, arranged and performed all the parts on her upcoming LP ‘Shades.’
Sound making, for her, has always been like mediumship. A channeling. There is no template for what it should be…no genre other than the strange night music within her, born more from intuition and surrender rather than any formal construction.