The two years since the release of The Ash & Clay have been heady ones for The Milk Carton Kids, with accolades ranging from their featured performance in the Coen Brothers documentary Another Day, Another Time, to winning Group of the Year at the 2014 Americana Music Awards, to a Grammy nomination, to performing at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival. While many of their laurels reference specific genres, the duo quickly transcend those tags, with inflections of jazz, classical, even the dark lyricism of modern “alternative,” all broadening their appeal, so that the audience at a typical Milk Carton Kids concert can range from 18 to 80. Like the pioneers Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris – both of whom the band paid tribute to this last year – the Milk Carton Kids take American music at its word, without confines or borders.
Now with their third album Monterey, The Milk Carton Kids have evolved their signature sound into its purest essence. Writing on the road, sitting around after shows in green rooms and hallways, these duo found themselves finishing and editing each other’s songs, resulting in a batch of songs where, for the first time in the band’s career, friends and family cannot tell who wrote what. And for all the attention the duo receives for combining into one voice, on Monterey we finally hear the singers as distinct; the acclaimed harmonies move farther apart so that the quirks and kinks of two individual identities emerge, the harmonies all the while remaining lush and soaring, their beauty all the more apparent for the showing of their scars. Monterey is an album forged literally and metaphorically “on the road”, an album that seems to ask how we can resolve the contradiction between the lightness of our footprint as we pass through, and the weight of those memories gathering behind us in the rearview mirror. Monterey poses this question with grace, beauty and a sly humor.