Press for Werner Ghost Truck
March 27th, 2007 LOSINGTODAY Review
With their second full-length release Barn Burning create soundscapes that are both stark and expansive through which singer Anthony Loffredio drifts, a contemplative and angst-ridden Nomad. Musically the sound is a blend of alt-country, folk and post-rock and is truly unique.
The album was recorded in a large, remote house in the middle of winter and the music has seemingly absorbed it’s desolate ambience and communicates it perfectly. The instrumentation is minimalist but also has a widescreen feel that creates a vast landscape, unsettling but still. Occasionally this serenity is violated by a storm of crashing guitars and Loffredio’s brooding vocal becomes an anguished wail, as during ‘The Final Days of Our Better Days’.
‘Crossing The Rubicon’ is the highlight, and is the best example of the bands ability to create a framework for a song that is otherworldly but that is also tethered by a rural earthiness. The sense of detachment is helped in no small part by the voice of Loffredio, which conveys yearning and anxiety in equal measure. If Interpol had teamed up with Iron & Wine and Talk Talk and decamped to Nashville to re-recorded the latter’s seminal ‘Spirit of Eden’ the result may well sound similar to ‘Werner Ghost truck’. Given the right circumstances, it could itself become a landmark album but for now it remains a pure and desolate masterpiece.
March, 27th 2007 Threeimaginarygirls.com Review (Seattle)
Werner Ghost Truck, the second release from Providence, Rhode Island’s Barn Burning, sounds at times like it is indeed inhabited by spirits, and its strength lies in the almost hollow sound that the band achieved by recording in a big, empty house in New England in the middle of winter. You can hear the resonance of this chilly emptiness in these songs, and they would make quite an appropriate soundtrack for a winter night by the fireplace.
The band’s sound is like a more sullen version of The Decemberists, with instrumentation that’s sometimes reminiscent of The Elected and lyrics that tell lush, elaborate stories. It’s rooted in alt-country but strays enough from the confines of the genre that it earns its indie stripes as well. The album doesn’t knock you out on first listen, but instead slowly grows on you as you make its acquaintance. Once you’ve fully embraced it you are enraptured.
Werner Ghost Truck opens with “William” — presumably about the same William to whom the album is partially dedicated — a story-song that employs harmonica and piano during vocal breaks to help portray its subtle sadness. Next up is the stark “Crossing the Rubicon,” which isn’t a particularly pretty song but does mark its territory and calls to mind Boston band The Motion Sick. As the song winds down, it merges via guitar feedback into “Long Dark Room,” a slightly slower song with a lap steel guitar that tears at the heartstrings while radio frequency noises are embedded in the layers of instruments. Again, songs fade into each other as “Long Dark Room” becomes “October 5,” a song in which spooky piano notes personify the ghostly part of the album’s title, which itself segues into one of the album’s proudest moments, “Put the Drunk Drivers On the Guest List.” “And it’s like wrapping gifts half-drunk on Christmas Eve / Passing out inside the room where you were conceived,” sings Anthony Loffredio in a song about emptiness and longing — or at least, one that sounds like these things.
“Friendship Fails You” continues this vibe with toy piano and violin. A chorus of harmonic Oh Ohs is dramatically enhanced by surprisingly low male background vocals in the vein of Jens Lekman’s “Pocketful of Money.” The pace is picked up with the next track, “Flailing,” probably the most poppy and Decemberist-y track on the album, and one of the strongest. “The Final Days of Our Better Days” slows it back down and features one of the only vocal departures on the album, in which Loffredio effectively jumps an octave, creating a tender vulnerability not before heard. “The Send Off” then continues on this path, fading into “February 28” — a sequel of sorts to “October 5” in which spooky piano again creates a bridge between songs (both tracks were recorded on a Panasonic voice recorder to achieve this sound) — and finally, “Winter Palace” launches with guitar strums and organs setting up the album’s longest and last track. It's a multi-dimensional piece, with harmony vocals, instrumental variety and a lingering moodiness.
The downfall of Werner Ghost Truck is that Barn Burning are really good at what they do… but maybe they do a little too much of it. Some of the songs are fairly similar; the ones that break the mold are the ones that will stay with you after the fire goes out.
March, 2007 Pennyblackmusic (UK) Review
Barn Burning released one of the best, but most under-rated Americana records of 2003 with their debut album, 'Weatheredbound'.
In the four years since then things seem to have picked up very little for the Rhode Island-based band. A quick glance at the sleeve notes of their second CD, 'Werner Ghost Truck', shows only singer and guitarist Anthony Loffredio remaining as a full-time member from the six piece line-up of the group that recorded 'Weatheredbound'.
'Put the Drunk Drivers on the Guest List', upon which lap steel and guitar player Corwin Butterworth, who contributed heavily to that first recording, returns just briefly to make a brief cameo appearance, in fact chronicles the plight of a band rapidly shedding its members, and finding that its sell-by date has not so much past, but has never come.
"When the fun runs out it is time to pack it in and fade away" sings Lofreddio with bittersweet irony, yet still not prepared to give up on his band. "But I know an empty bar in Nashville where we could play/I know an empty bar in Black Mountain where we could play/I know an empty bar in Buffalo we could play."
'Werner Ghost Truck' was recorded in a large, uninhabited house, for which Jim Reynolds who engineered the album is the caretaker, over the course of a long, hard Massachusetts winter, and the "cold", "ice" and "winter" embody much of its lyrics. As befits the circumstances of its recording and an album, whose song titles also include 'Long Dark Room', 'Friendship Fails You', 'Flailing' and 'The Final Days of Our Better Days', it is an exceptionally dark work.
Loffredio's vocals have a gnarled gustiness, are the sound of a man beaten down by life one too many times amplified. The music, a swirling mesh of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and drums, is meanwhile always beautiful, but also throughout melancholic and forlorn.
The slow rattling, rustical opening number, ‘William’, is presumably about William and Elaine “Penny” Prince whose memory the album is dedicated to, and is seemingly about a death told from the heartbreaking perspective of the one left behind (“They have emptied the big white house and piled your things in the driveway/An old mandolin/A broken down train set sits out”).
In the first-rate middle section of the album, Butterworth’s pealing lap steel suddenly slips the music up tempo on ‘Put the Drunk Drivers on the Guest List’.
The next track ‘Friendship Fails You’, about the collapse of a long-term friendship after a betrayal and it alcohol-enflamed aftermath, is similarly striking, culminating in a duet between Lofreddio and special guest the Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Robert Fisher. Fisher has been a long term champion of the band, co-producing ‘Weathererdbound’, and his soft baritone and Loffredio’s more guttural vocals circle and weave around each other, against the backdrop of Brad Malone’s searing violin, to stunning, magnificent effect.
After this, there is the gritty, thunderous rock of ‘Flailing’, about the devastating demise of a love affair (“Love won’t wait when you’re starring at the brick walls of life/When you scream over and over it’s over/I’m leaving again”), in which the other two members of the current four-piece band, James Merida with his cascading, shimmering bass, and James Toomey with clapping drums, are both thrust briefly, but convincingly to the fore.
As the album comes towards an end, its bleakness-the moroseness and lonely angst of Lofreddio’s vocals, and its dirge-like mass of sound-unfortunately, however, proves all too much and it becomes grindingly monotonous. It needs to have and to balance this out on these last tracks, ‘The Final Days of Our Better Days’, ‘The Send Off ‘ and ‘Winter Palace’, more in the way of the little flourishes of contrast of the type -Fisher’s vocals, Butterworth’s pedal steel work and the sudden dominance of the rhythm section-that makes its central part such enticing listening.
With this compelling but flawed record, Barn Burning have made a good rather than the outstanding album it promises at one point to be. Now that their line-up seems more stable, and with the odd good review beginning to trickle in from Europe, there are hopefully better times ahead and they will stay together to record another record without some of the problems that have dogged the band between the recording of this album and the last album.
‘Werner Ghost Truck’ may not be quite a masterpiece, but one suspects that may yet come with this under acknowledged group’s third album.
March, 2007 Aversion.com Review (Colorado)
Some say beating the wintertime blues is just really a matter of staging a war of attrition, counting off the days between the solstice and the equinox and knowing that, even in the chilliest, darkest winter night, the spring thaw, sunshine, with them, salvation, is no more than a few weeks away.
Those are the people who've never really felt winter's cold dread grab them by the soul and hold on so tight there's little room to wiggle, let alone picture blue skies and April showers. Barn Burning's Werner Ghost Truck's borne from those moments in the winter, those lethargic and dreary days that are stuck somewhere between depression and apathy. Barn Burning takes the moody feel of Denver Southern Gothic and cutting out the religious imagery and alcohol-soaked insanity, Barn Burning's left with a hollow, atmospheric soundscape that's not creepy as much as it is it's hauntingly spacious in a way that recalls a little bit of Joy Division and a little bit of 16 Horsepower.
No matter how you cut it, Barn Burning soaks Werner Ghost Truck in winter chill. "Long Dark Room," is based on little more than folksy acoustic guitar work, though the slide guitar, standup bass and washes of keys pluck it from the world of backyard jams and toss it a desolate midnight world full of little more than snowdrifts. "Put the Drunk Drivers on the Guest List" and "The Final Days of Our Better Days" succumb to depression as the band carries off its minor-key alt-country weepies into a twilight world where shadows aren't scary as much as a symptom of emptiness. "The Send Off" plugs in for some alt-country guitar leads, and James Toomey hits his toms enough to shake off a bit of the sleepies of the rest of the album.
Werner Ghost Truck is a testament to loneliness, and none of that "the world doesn't understand me" crap so popular with teenagers across the land. It's the loneliness born of long dark nights, achingly temperatures and the long, dark winter of the soul.
March 15, 2007 Americana UK Review (United Kingdom)
Shambolic, dark and teetering on the edge but eventually delivers
Barn Burning are essentially a vehicle for leader Anthony Loffredio’s songs with various musicians pulled in for varying stays of duty. Championed by Robert Fisher of Willard Grant, Loffredio occupies a similar musical space but with a darker and starker view. Recorded in parts in a “big empty house during the middle of winter” the music is an impressionistic take on rural tales of old America (reflected in the Faulkneresque name). Loffredio’s lyrics are pessimistic snapshots of grim lives, “the old doctor says the pathways to your heart are getting clogged and distressed and it's tired of hope and lack of love the emptiness of driving home” (Long Dark Room). Claustrophobic and empty of any hope the songs are delivered by a band that can pluck misery from a ramshackle acoustic and electric duststorm that drifts from furious drums to swathes of guitar with screeching violin and toy piano thrown in to good effect. The end result is a tantalising listen as the band build up tension within a song and set themselves up to crash or burn (as in Friendship Fails You) but manage to land safely without falling apart. This may be partly due to what seems to be a poor production with drums and bass at times too prominent. A bit of a demanding listen then but when the results are as good as “Long Dark Room” (which has Robert Fisher on vocals towards the end) worth the effort. File under Willard Grant meets 16 Horsepower.
March, 2007 Melodic.net Review (Sweden)
If you have records with Jay Farrar and Arcade Fire in your record collection you should specifically check up this band which is produced by Jim Reynolds who earlier produced Tigersaw with several others. The album is beautiful and melancholic and the vocalist Thony Loffredio have a personal voice that is influenced by Neil Young and that type of singers which have a more personal expression than schooled if you get my point… I may personally think that the disk is a little well down in the dumps, but it have something I like and if you like melancholy alt-rock you should definitely check them up.
February .21, 2007 Independent Weekly Review(North Carolina)
Providence quartet Barn Burning picked the wrong name: The best songs on their forthcoming Werner Ghost Truck are glowing orange embers, better suited for heating up cold feelings than razing old buildings. Insistent, slow-breathing organs and middle C chords from acoustic guitars guide the passengers, setting the carriage of nostalgic familiarity beneath sad songs about leaving nice people. Think R.E.M. and My Morning Jacket, bracing themselves from the Rhode Island fire indoors with a stove and a bottle of whiskey.
February 25, 2007 Sodapop.it Review (Italy)
Barn Burning is the title it of a story of Faulkner: if you know this writer and takes one glanced at the grain field in cover you will be able to already understand that in this disc there is space for the folk and the country. In more if I say to you that they are under the protecting wing of Robert Fisher of the Willard Grant Conspiracy (host in a piece) your suspiciones they will be confirmed, but there is of the other. Listening to this disc they come in mind pure… the Joy Division! when I have read it in the official notice prints I did not believe to us, nevertheless it is therefore, even if to think Ian Curtis in transfer from Manchester to Nashville makes one strange effect me. Not that the amalgam succeeds badly, indeed: the joy is not decidedly of house but pieces are indeed resolutions. The voice suffered from Anthony Loffredio is accompanied from an acoustic guitar and electric at times indierock (much Red House Painters, like in Flailing, my preferred one) and from the immancabile violino, the brani have personality and they are not never banal; according to disc, the Barn Burning is of Rhode Island and although from those you leave in this period is a lot of hype for the Load Records, by rough estimate and cross is placed also for the Indie rock mixed to the country.
Press for Weatheredbound
March 31, 2004 All Music Guide
Six-piece alt-roots collective Barn Burning hails from Providence, RI, but the group will probably call to mind the more folk-rocking side of '80s Athens, GA. In feel, Weatheredbound also stirs up comparisons to such unconventional '90s alt-country collectives as Lullaby for the Working Class, Songs: Ohia, and the Willard Grant Conspiracy. In fact, the latter group's Robert Fisher produced the album. Weatheredbound has an easy-rolling pastoral feel, with the downtrodden sentiments underpinned by rustic accents — mandolin, banjo, violin, dobro, and lap steel — and likable, lazy grooves. This is not a listless album, though, and the group can saw itself up into a stirringly aggressive cacophony at times, particularly in "Streetlight." Barn Burning also doesn't shy away from the occasional rocker: "Windshield" finds itself at a compelling crossroads between Crazy Horse and early R.E.M. In turn, the alt-countryish "Not Falling" is just downright pretty with its bruised harmonies and bright mandolin. This is a promising debut that nicely blends dour rusticisms, rootsy string work, and alt-rock grooves. — Erik Hage All Music Guide
December 18, 2003 The Providence Journal
(entire interview here)
"[Barn Burning's]influence is not from country, but from the country; not of Nashville-inspired Southern country music, but of the rural spaces of New England. And that means that, while there are acoustic guitars, mandolins, dobros, banjos and twangy voices, a different language is being spoken. Is "New England country music" a category? Maybe it should be. And Barn Burning would be one of the first and finest examples." Rick Massimo (Providence Journal)
December 12, 2003 Village Voice
"Lightening Bolt and the Load roster isn't likely to make Rhode Island the next Seattle. Still, this other R.I. crew plumbs the alt-country thang nicely with Anthony Loffredio's warm drawl and hints of Fairport Convention and R.E.M. [and] many suprsing touches in the songwriting."
January 23, 2004 Buffalo Art Voice
"Barn Burning is a six-piece Rhode Island contingent that has mixed its roots rock sound with an elegant, waltzing swirl of guitars. The band's music references the work of Richard Thompson with Fairport Convention and the low rumbling vocal tones of Jay Farrar." (Art Voice, September 2003)
June 20, 2003 Northeast Performer
Supported by the harmonies of Emily Myers and Erik Wohlgemuth, Loffredio's vocals take up a distinctive voice that is quite his own. For a record produced by the Willard Grant Conspiracy's Robert Fisher, some twist on the formula is a given. It's just a matter of finding out what it is. The album closer, “100,000 Light Years,” is more than a fin de siecle on this album. It's what everything has been pointing towards. The song bubbles up out of a droning pulse and Loffredio gives the most dynamic vocal performance of the album. When the drums churn like a train and draw the band in with one quick hit, it's tougher to think about how far country music has traveled without realizing that the places it has gone are only the first steps on a much greater path. (Catamount) Jeff Breeze