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Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR's All Songs Considered features your favorite musicians performing at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music office. This is the AUDIO only archive.Are you a fancy A/V nerd and need video? Visit our new Tiny Desk Concert video channel. Eye-popping video and all of the music you've come to expect.

The Milk Carton Kids: Tiny Desk Concert

The history of folk and pop music is littered with gorgeous intertwined voices: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Jayhawks' Mark Olson and Gary Louris, and many others have found their own delicate blend of chemistry and charisma. The Milk Carton Kids' Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale operate in those pairs' rich tradition, singing sweet but intricate songs of melancholy when they're not dishing playful banter between songs.

Ryan and Pattengale get a lot done with subtle gestures — their ballads, like "Michigan" and "Stealing Romance" here, have a way of smoothing over many of their moving parts — but there's real sophistication to the three gorgeous songs they recently performed in the NPR Music offices. Even their dryly funny conversational patter has a way of commanding attention through the expenditure of as little apparent energy as possible; with his still, mischievous shyness, Ryan in particular comes off like a less antic Tommy Smothers.

Given that both of The Milk Carton Kids' albums are available for free download on the band's website, live performances like these are crucial to the pair's financial survival. This warmly charming 15-minute set makes as powerful an argument as any that Ryan and Pattengale were wise to bet on themselves.

Set List:

  • "Michigan"
  • "Stealing Romance"
  • "I Still Want A Little More"
  • Credits:

    Producer: Stephen Thompson; Editors: Bob Boilen and Nick Michael; Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Emily Bogle/NPR

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)