Published on October 29th, 2014 | by Jon Santiago0
Review: Sarah Jarosz and the Milk Carton Kids at the CMH
Sarah Jarosz and the Milk Carton Kids
Charleston Music Hall
Imagine Great-Grandma’s living room but with an old-timey radio broadcast springing up among the doilies, vintage lamps and side tables. That’s the kind of time-warp Sarah Jarosz and duo the Milk Carton Kids (Kenneth Pattengale, Joey Ryan) let loose in Charleston Music Hall on Sunday night, Oct. 26. The trio delivered folkie classics, bluegrass and original tunes on a stage set that might have been pulled together from the Dust Bowl era props department of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? An old fashioned cabinet radio took up a corner of the stage, its amber dial softly luminescent. As the 90-minute-plus performance hummed along, it too, seemed to be infused with that same warm glow.
About 20 minutes into the show, Ryan asked the crowd, “Can you tell we like singing together?” These two Grammy-nominated acts dreamed up this “In Collaboration” tour because they do love singing together. And it shows. Their voices blend seamlessly, like a deep moment of joy expressing itself.
Critics already love these performers on their own merits. The Milk Carton Kids have re-imagined the golden age of acoustic music with gorgeous vocal harmonies, solid musicianship, and accomplished songwriting. Add in Jarosz’ straight-from-the-heart voice, and her multi-instrumental chops. Together, along with stellar support from Samson Grisman (bass), Alex Hargreaves (violin), and Nathaniel Smith (cello), this trio soared through a setlist that included covers of Bob Dylan, the Everly Brothers, Woody Guthrie, and even Tom Waits.
While some new, three-part harmony versions of their own tunes (notably Milk Carton Kids’ “Michigan”) added dimension to those songs, some jukebox favorites earned new admiration, too. The trio’s cover of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” made that classic heartbreaker heart-breaking all over again. Guthrie’s ode to Dust Bowl era California, “Do Re Mi,” got a rousing workout that invigorated that song with new meaning for the present day.
Overall, one element stood out. With only three onstage mics covering all the performers, the sound of this concert was both unimaginably rich and intimate at the same time, easily ranking among the best (truly) unplugged shows we’ve ever attended. That’s one of the things that makes us hope a live recording of this tour is in the works. We’d also love to hear them all sing the show-closing encore again, Tom Waits’ “Jayne’s Blue Wish.” Amazing.
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