Live Impressions: The Milk Carton Kids and Leslie Stevens

One of my favorite things in the world is discovering new music that is so far beyond anything else that you find it hard to talk about or listen to anything else. Greg and I have not been shy in talking about and posting about The Milk Carton Kids. These two guys, Kenneth Pattingale and Joey Ryan, are singularly talented musicians. They were joined on this leg of their tour by Leslie Stevens, a good friend of the band and a great fit for a concert.

Leslie started off the evening with some very beautiful songs that featured her and her acoustic guitar, along with an accompanying pedal steel which added a lot of depth to her songs. With a voice that sounds like Emmylou and honest and transparent songwriting, Stevens was a match for the guys and started the show off on a high note. She performed “Picture in a Frame”, a Tom Waits cover, with Kenneth, who also produced her album, and hearing him sing male-female harmonies was a welcome and very well done change. Leslie’s new album, The Donkey and The Rose, isn’t out yet, unless you got it at her show, but we’ll be keeping you posted on when that’s coming and everything else Leslie Stevens. Check out this awesome song, “Everybody Drinks and Drives in Heaven”:

When The Milk Carton Kids finally get to the stage, it’s pretty obvious that these two guys, having been a band for a year and a half and playing more than 200 shows, have an incredible comfort level around each other. Before playing and while introducing “Charlie” (my favorite of The Milk Carton Kids’ songs, about Kenneth’s yet to be born or conceived daughter), Joey said, “He’s [Kenneth] been made aware that Charlie is a boy’s name, but he’s sticking with it. He’s stubborn like that…(awkward pause)…that’s why we’re back in Pittsburgh for the 5th time in a year and a half, because he hasn’t had any luck anywhere else. Or here the last 4 times.” There’s a hilarious, comedy duo type atmosphere when these two guys are on stage.

After performing most of their big hits, including “Permanent”, “Michigan”, and “Girls Gather Round”, the boy’s hit on what I thought was the most important part of the evening. To introduce their encore, they told us that they’d be back in the spring with a new album in tow. Very few things get me as excited as something like that. They asked us to turn off our cameras if we had them on, “because we don’t want the first version released to the public to be your shitty iPhone version”, they’d played a new song, which was suitably mellow and a little different from the old stuff. It’s just different enough to get me really pumped for a new album.

If you haven’t yet, go see The Milk Carton Kids in person. They tour constantly, tickets are super cheap, like 12$, and it’s a show unlike any other. They always have good openers, they always make you laugh, and most importantly, they make damn fine music. And it’s all free on their website.


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