I'm still awaiting delivery of their new album 'Michigan' but I've just received my vinyl copy of The Milk Carton Kid's 2012 release, 'The Ash & Clay'.
It's a beautiful uncluttered thing, shimming with quiet poetry, deft touch and an intimacy of close harmony that brings to mind both Simon and Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers. Indeed there's a subtle tipping of the hat to Paul Simon's 'Graceland' in the closing song 'Memphis':
"This is ain't a trip with my son, there's no guitar shines in the sun, those days are gone, may new ones come before it's all just a museum . . . Graceland is a ghost town tonight, I guess it's been a long decline, God bless the souls that shook up mine"
These are songs to wallow in, for beyond the cool veneer is a worldweary wisdom that beckons, embraces and binds; taps into your heart and mind and refuses to leave.
The swing sets are empty like dirt turned the dark of the night
the center of this town it used to whirl in the glow of twilight
it might look like God's away with all the trouble these days
we'll come home before the girls are grown
we're coming home tonightWhat, oh, have we done to run this country into such a sight
stolen from our brothers like we couldn't find a fair enough fight
you wait on promise you will say
won't forsake the ash and clay
let's come home before the girls are grown
let's come home to fight
And to add gravity to the the loving luster we have liner notes from Joe Henry who concludes:
"For within these songs is a man himself in motion –a traveler who dances in silent, halting circles. And what he does is quietly bear witness like a weathervane, to the carnival of souls by the wayside, his eyes cornered but his face always pointing forward, his voice in our heads. He moves through love but is alone; laughs at the wreckage, weeps with lust; throws and sweeps confetti, stands at cold gravesides; raises a hand in promise, then picks your pocket and slips quietly back across the border. He slides outside the law, bound by honor and duty, the pure product of a mad country working with all its heart at fevered cross-purposes.
In the end it is mercy he is after, the character in this play—the kind of mercy that attends grace when truly living in spite of the inevitable, when singing the unspeakable to the unlistening. ≈ And from Hiroshima to Graceland, this character knows that the whole of human foolishness must be witnessed, loved, and forgiven for that mercy to be ratified.
Like Jesus and Harpo Marx, he does this for us all."
I like Joe...
I love The Milk Carton Kids.