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    Bit to Do

    Milk Carton Kids and Sarah Jarosz
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    Thursday night at the Bomhard Theater two bands came together as one -- blending their voices in gorgeous harmonies and wowing fans with instrumental virtuosity. Sarah Jarosz on her own is a force to be reckoned with -- moving seamlessly from banjo to mandolin to guitar, her effortlessly assured vocals never wavering in their ability to charm. Joining that kind of singular talent to the guitar-picking pair of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale -- whose voices are as harmonically appealing as any folk duo I've ever heard -- is nothing short of magical. 

    What stood out for me was the obvious camaraderie between the band members, which stems from what Ryan called a "mutual admiration" society, which gave them the idea of touring together as collaborating artists in the first place. It's one thing to like each other's music, it's quite another to pull off a successful commingling of the two. But with bassist Samson Grisman, cellist Nathaniel Smith, and violinist Alex Hargreaves, the group on stage has a deep reservoir of musical talent from which to draw. They've worked together to create intriguing arrangements of covers and to rearrange each band's original songs into something new.

    I particularly enjoyed their cover of Dwight Yoakam's "Send A Message To My Heart" following a pretty hilarious disquisition on the grammatical efficiency of the southern "y'all" from the LA native Joey Ryan. Ryan and Pattengale are no slouches when it comes to lively stage banter. Pattengale's ongoing fascination with the interpreters that were signing to the audience provided playfulness and a chance to engage Ryan's deadpan humor. But whatever their stand-up skills, there's no denying the mastery of their music. "Years Gone By" and "Michigan" were achingly beautiful, Jarosz's pure voice layering poignantly over MKC's sweet harmonies. Other crowd pleasers were covers of Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" and the Skeeter Davis golden oldie, "End of the World." Of course, this trio could probably take the most annoying commercial jingle you've ever heard and make it sound like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. 

    MKC and Jarosz occupy the same musical landscape as classic folk artists -- think Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez. But at the same time, they are putting their own unique stamp on the genre -- not by adulterating it with borrowings from pop -- but by paying respect to the great breadth of styles of roots music and taking advantage of its native power to move and create solidarity. 

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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