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The Milk Carton Kids

All the Things I Did And All the Things I Didn't Do – 2018 (Anti-)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by The Milk Carton Kids

The Milk Carton Kids - Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale - have developed a solid following through the years, and "All The Things I Did and All The Things I Didn't Do" will feed the appetite of their followers just fine.

MCK have been compared to harmony-driven duos such as The Louvin Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers. But this misses the mark; Ryan and Pattengale have easy harmonies, to be sure, and they seem to carry the vocals as one, not unlike those they are compared to.

But The Milk Carton Kids are more restrained than those. In fact, restraint is the central feature here. The Everlys rocked their harmonies, and Simon and Garfunkel took on all manner of tempos and instrumentation. The Kids lock into their own space and seldom (all right, never) seem to reach beyond it.

"All The Things I Did and All The Things I Didn't Do" has some powerful songs, most especially in the lyrics. The words control the vibe for the most part, and when they flow, the music is carried along. Words, or at least phrasing, fail from time to time, making things blockier than they need be.

But back to restraint. There's a fine line between restrained and droopy. The Kids trundle up to the line from time to time and only their fine voices, and neat instrumental phrasings pull the material back. One would think that the really well-put together "Big Time" would engage a higher gear. It does not. To illustrate, the centerpiece of the CD is the extended "One More For The Road." It's a lovely song, evoking Dylan ("One More Cup Of Coffee"). At around the seven minute mark, what's that? A Hammond B3 organ wash. The listener is ready for things to take off, but it just sits there in the mix. So, too, the occasional percussive elements throughout the collection are sometimes more distracting than additive. "Just Look At Us Now" is upbeat, more positive than most and features sweet harmonies, but never sheds its skin to exult or celebrate.

On balance (which is just what The Milk Carton Kids are all about), "All The Things I Did and All The Things I Didn't Do" admirably fits the duo's style and approach. It's fine work, well crafted, but restrained.