Barn Burning' is a 1939 short story by the Nobel prize-winning author, William Faulkner. The winner of that year's O. Henry Award for Best Short Story, it is seen by many of the admirers of the author of 'The Sound and the Fury' and 'As I Lay Dying' to be one of the finest examples of his shorter fiction. Set 30 or so years after the Civil War, it tells of an impoverished and embittered sharecropper, Ab Snopes, who has turned to fire starting the barns of the local aristocracy as an act of vengeance against them. His abused 10 year old son, Sarty, is forced to choose between family loyalty and right and wrong when his deranged father plots to torch the property of a rich plantation owner.

'Barn Burning' is the favourite short story of American singer-songwriter, Anthony Loffredio, who when he was looking for a title for his new band, decided to name it after it. As a moniker for his group, it could not be any more perfect. Barn Burning's debut album, 'Weatheredbound', which has been described in an ecstatic review by the Miles of Music website as being about "winter, troubles, dead horses and bleak rural living", came out earlier this year. Many of the characters which Loffredio, who is an English major, draws upon on it in his poetic lyrics, while invariably less psychotic than Snopes, come from a similarly dark place, living their lives on the margins of society, and once more battling against the weather and the elements as well as their own often taut desires and emotions.

Despite Barn Burning's rurality, however, the group was ironically first formed in the distinctly urban setting of Providence on Rhode Island in 2000. Barn Burning first started to come together, when Loffredio, who had been brought up in Providence, but who had spent some years living away returned to his home city, and began playing music again with his childhood friend, Erik Wohlegemuth.

"Erik and I were in a band called Return to Normalcy" Loffredio tells Pennyblackmusic. "We played just one show together back in 1994 just after we had left High School, and after that I stopped playing guitar for a good four and a half years. I went away to live in California for a time after leaving college, but then when I came back I started writing songs again. Erik was still playing guitar every now and then. He actually lived right next door to me at the time, and it, therefore, made sense to ask him to play again with me."

Both Loffredio and Wohlgemuth sing and play both the acoustic and the electric guitar. The group's other full-time members are Corwin Butterworth (lap steel and mandolin), Emily Myers (viola), Jean-Paul Perez (bass) and James Toomey (Drums). Butterworth has been in the band nearly since the beginning, and Myers for the last two years. Perez and Toomey are more recent additions, and replace Mark O' Brien and Andy Pace, both of whom appeared on 'Weatheredbound' and who have since moved away from Rhode Island. Lambchop and the Willard Grant Conspiracy's Dennis Cronin also makes a guest appearance on trumpet on 'Weatheredbound' while Peter Linnane, who fronts his own band Linnane and who is also a member of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, appears on piano.

'Weatheredbound' has earned the band critical comparisions with the Walkabouts, Lambchop and the Tindersticks because of its semi-orchestral sound. The country-based flavour of many of its tunes has meanwhile drawn the band likenesses with Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo and Palace. The album was recorded over a six month period at Zippah Studios in Boston, and was co-produced by Linnane and Robert Fisher, the Willard Grant Conspiracy's frontman.

"We recorded the first part of 'Weatheredbound' in May and June of 2002" says Loffredio. "We then played a crap load of shows all that summer so that we could pay that debt off. Corwin's Dad gave us some money, and we were then able to finish it off because of him in October. It was mastered in November. All in all it took a long time for us to get it finished."

Loffredio gained much of his inspiration for 'Weatheredbound', road tripping across America in the years before he returned to Providence. He wrote much of the material for the album in his mind long before he formed the band.

"I wasn't really thinking of how rural many of those songs are when I wrote them" he reflects. "I have travelled a lot though through America and particulary New England. I have always had a fascination with weather and old houses and things that are away from everywhere else. Those things are more real to me in many ways, and I think that you can see that on the album."

"I was very rootless when I wrote a lot of that stuff" Loffredio goes on to admit. "I think that shows through too as well. I wrote a lot of it in my head first of all, and never really thought that the songs would become anything."

That sense of rootlessness is perhaps best expressed on the choral and epic final track, '100, OO0 Light Years' which, featuring Myers on backing vocals, finds its narrator, like Loffredio, returning home after some years away.

"It's about moving 3000 miles away" says Loffredio. "And getting there and realising that it was a mistake and that everything is meanwhile falling apart at home, and so you go back home and that is a mistake too. You go back to be with various people and they let you down and you've crashed and you're thinking 'Now What ?' "

Many of the other characters on 'Weatheredbound', however, suffer from a similar sense of alienation. The protagonist on the blackly comical 'Dead Horse Waltz' finds himself suddenly bereft after years of surviving he has thought by himself.

"It is all a bit ridiculous" laughs Loffredio. "I had this image on that one of a character who goes through life and who doesn't meet anyone. He won't commit to anything, and just keeps going on his horse. That's his safety butt, but at the end the horse is dead and he finds himself completely screwed."

The central character on 'Preparations for Winter' meanwhile goes out , as summer ends, on what he tells himself will be a final heavy drinking session and bender around town before he prepares for a solitary winter on his own.

"I got the inspiration for that one from being dumped" Loffredio says. "Fall is coming around and you've been dumped and you think 'Oh, great. Another winter of going out too much and drinking too much.' "

"Sometimes you want to stay home, but when there is no one around to stay home with you don't" he adds, laughing once more .

'Weatheredbound' was released initially by a small local Providence label, Secret Eye, before being picked up Catamount, a larger Nashville-based label, which is co-run by Eric Babcock, the co-founder of Bloodshot and Checkered Past Records. It was given a fuller and wider-scale release with a different sleeve in June.

"We are going to tour the shit out of this record" Loffredio concludes, when asked about Barn Burning's future plans. "We are hoping to get to the Netherlands at some point this year because Catamount are sending the record out that way. We are also going to be gaining a lot of road mileage touring across the United States."

As well as Miles of Music, 'Weatheredbound' has been given rave reviews in publications such as 'Village Voice', 'Art Voice', 'Harp Magazine' and 'North East Performer.' Barn Burning have been playing to increasingly packed houses in Providence and Boston, and currently have further shows lined up in September for what will be its second national tour in New York City, Buffalo, Detroit, Lansing, Chicago, Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio . It seems that Anthony Loffredio's own personal road trip has only just begun.










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