November 11, 2003

Barn Burning "Weatheredbound"

Any band that has the ability to make a jingle-jangle racket sound one-hundred percent original is A-OK in my book. That's why it gives me pride, dear readers, to introduce you all to Providence, Rhode Island's newest sensations, Barn Burning. This sextet offer up some of the nicest, heartfelt country folk jangle pop this side of the Dutch East India catalog circa 1988, and it took exactly all of two seconds for me to be utterly charmed & disarmed by their sound. Indeed, if you're old enough to remember those days, Barn Burning will quickly remind you of a time when REM was better known as a medical term, country wasn't alt, and 'indie-rock' was 'college rock.'

See, I'm a sucker for good, down-home country music, and Barn Burning are really good at what they do. With a bit of a wreckless, loose sound that borders on the shambiotic, their songs sound as if they're about to fall apart on you, but that's not because of inexperience--it's simply that they've hidden the ties that bind them together quite well, so it only sounds like they're gonna fall apart. In reality, these songs never do; if anything, they're extremely tight, well-produced and possess a live charm that's quite rewarding. I've always said that there's nothing better than a really good 'roots-rock'-style lineup, and Weatheredbound is certainly proof that, hey, I am RIGHT.

Instead of your traditional band format, Barn Burning is augmented with lap steels, mandolin, dobro, banjo, viola, piano, trumpet--and none of these instruments are add-ons to your basic guitar/bass/drum format. When you put Weatheredbound on your stereo, Barn Burning's sound will fill the air the minute the viola in album opener "Flown," but the minute the rest of the band comes in, the room will literally come alive with sound. Warm and inviting, theirs is a sound that's so new, yet so familiar--getting lost in Weatheredbound is really easy to do. Oh, and what's this? The title track borrows a little bit from one of my favorite songs, "Sweet Child O'Mine," yet they do it so innocently, they make it their own.

Every song on here is a winner. Even though some might initally be put off by Anthony Loffredio's vocals--a twang that never sounds like parody, but is an interesting combo of Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, circa Still Feel Gone-era Uncle Tupelo. Let it be known, too, that mentioning Uncle Tupelo does not mean they actually sound like Uncle Tupelo--for shame if you think that! Barn Burning's better than mere imitation. Besides, Uncle Tupelo never gave the world anything quite like the magical "The Troubles" and the catchy "Not Falling." Heck, it's the one-two closing punch of the wonderful "100,000 Light Years" and the untitled secret track that will make you hit the repeat button. Still, after a listen or two, his voice fits in quite nicely with the rest of the band, and indeed, it's perhaps the key element that makes Barn Burning better than your Average Alt.Country Band (whatever that is).

Barn Burning's a wonderful (not really) little band, and Weatheredbound is a wonderfully charming debut record. It's full of wonderful lush sounds, homegrown melody, and a sunny, positive understanding of that thing we call melody--you know, the thing that many people neglect in favor of irony. This is a record that you MUST MUST MUST seek out, because it WILL charm you. Let's hope they get what they deserve in 2004--I know I'm rooting for this (not really) little band that can.

--Joseph Kyle

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