If this 10-minute-plus song is any indication, The Milk Carton Kids are about to release a truly epic album. The song we're premiering today, "One More For the Road," is a delicate tale of two lovers parting ways and the hope for one last embrace. It'll be one of twelve songs on the duo's fourth album, titled All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn't Do.
Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan are The Milk Carton Kids and sing with harmonies steeped in the great duos of days gone by, like The Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel. More contemporary influences include Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Joey and Kenneth wrote to tell me about this ambitious new song, which is the length of what would normally be three Milk Carton Kids tunes. Kenneth, who plays the role of the more serious member of this duo, says that "over many years of making records, what I've learned to be most important is to satisfy the artistic vision as it has been conceived. It is neither a waste of time nor money nor an exercise in vanity to trace down an inspired artistic inclination. You chase that down like a big fat m*********** of a pig on the hunt for truffles. That said, if your ambition is honored — it is our duty as artists to let go, to accept what is now true: a weird bastard we brought into the world who has now waltzed into the room and announced itself as kin. You do the best that you can. You follow your North Star. You make sure there's nothing you'll regret. Then you start the lifelong work of accepting what you did as valid. I regret nothing. I'm listening as best I can."
And, of course, a straight-faced Joey, with tongue firmly in cheek, adds that "we were advised by our social media and cultural trend consultants that attention spans among music consumers, especially in the coveted 18-24 demographic, have been lengthening. Based on that counsel and after much market testing, we concluded that, at 10 minutes and 23 seconds long, 'One More For The Road' was the obvious choice for our first single."
The album's producer is the ever-articulate Joe Henry, a long-time friend of The Milk Carton Kids who wrote the foreword for each of their last three records. Joe told me in an email that he's "been witness to the pan of their shared camera from wide cultural observance to a tighter focus of introspection. Even when gesturing broadly to our national traumas ('Mourning In America,' one fine example). And as they have sharpened their focus, Kenneth and Joey have expanded their sound — opened the fences to invite in fresh characters who throw shade and new depths of color, placing smaller stories within broader frames — acknowledging greater range while amplifying the intimacy inherent to their essential duet.
Joe Henry went on to say that there is "nary a better example of this balance than 'One More For the Road.' We feel the storm gathering. But though this road is dark and perilous, it doesn't go on forever."
The song was written by The Milk Carton Kids along with Mark Stepro and Garrison Starr, with guitars and vocals by Kenneth and Joey, drums by one of my favorite players, Jay Bellerose, pedal steel guitar by Russ Pahl, Dennis Crouch on double bass and Joe Henry's son, Levon Henry on alto clarinet.
All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn't Do is due out June 29 on Anti- Records.