The Milk Carton Kids is an indie folk duo from Eagle Rock, California, consisting of singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who formed the group in early 2011. The Grammy-nominated, flat-picking harmony duo have since emerged as a powerful voice defining the continuing folk tradition whose virtuosity defines The Milk Carton Kids to the delight of both traditionalists and newcomers to the folk movement alike. NPR has described their approach to music as "gorgeous contemporary folk" and "Gillian Welch & David Rawlings-meets-Simon & Garfunkel with a splash of The Everly Brothers", which fairly represents the band's music while also appealing to the intended audience. The band has recorded and released three albums: Retrospect, Prologue, and The Ash & Clay. The forewords to both "Prologue" and "The Ash & Clay" were written by singer-songwriter and producer Joe Henry. The band is noted for releasing their first two albums for free and for playing their vintage guitars with Ryan playing a 1951 Gibson J-45 and Pattengale on a 1954 Martin 0-15. The band's general manager is Nick Bobetsky.
Artists Ryan and Pattengale formed a duo after Ryan attended a solo performance by Pattengale in their shared hometown. "Both had long and largely unsuccessful careers as solo performers behind them, and each had reached a professional crossroads", which led them to form the musical duo now known as The Milk Carton Kids. The Milk Carton Kids released Retrospect, a live album recorded in Ventura, CA, in March 2011. Retrospect predates the band name, and was released under Kenneth Pattengale & Joey Ryan. After performing at SXSW in March 2011, The Milk Carton Kids joined Joe Purdy's North American tour as his opening act and backing band.