Alright, enough farting around. BJ Barham and American Aquarium releasing 80’s and 90’s country cover songs through their Slappers, Banger, and Certified Twangers series was fun while it lasted. But serious times call for serious music, and who better to unabashedly tackle the troubling times of turmoil and loss we live in than American Aquarium?
Named after a former life-saving station built in 1874 on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Chicamacomico will be the North Carolina-based band’s ninth studio record, and they promise that this one will not necessarily be the rancorous country rock affair of some of their previous records, but put the songwriting out front. This is facilitated by bringing producer Brad Cook on board, who produced BJ Barham’s stripped-down 2016 album Rockingham, as well as the band’s 2015 album Wolves.
“When you are young, you want to play everything loud and fast and I think that comes, at least in part, from uncertainty,” says BJ Barham. “I hadn’t fully found my voice back in those early days so the louder and faster the songs were the less chance someone could actually hear what I was saying. The more comfortable I got with my ‘voice,’ the more confident I became in my lyrical ability. I’m not afraid of the lyrics sitting way out front anymore because I am confident in the songwriting. The band can still cut loose and take over a song, but they aren’t expected to do all the heavy lifting these days.”
Very much inspired by personal events, BJ recounts the loss of his mother in the Chicamacomico track “The First Year,” while “The Things We Lost Along The Way” ponders the passage of time, and how things are slowly taken from you. Another song “Waking Up The Echoes” is about the suicide of a close friend. Now perhaps it makes more sense why the album was coined after a strangely-named rescue station on Hatteras.
“When these massive life changes happen, we feel like we are the only ones facing these problems,” BJ continues. “Talking about them openly, giving them a name and dragging them into the light makes them seem a little less daunting, a little more conquerable. I hope this album serves as a salve to anyone who has experienced this sort of loss over the last few years. I hope it makes them feel a little less isolated and disconnected. I want them to know that someone out there is going through the exact same shit and that they are not alone.”
Ahead of the album, American Aquarium has released the song “All I Needed.” Co-written with Carl Anderson and featuring harmonies from Patterson Hood, BJ Barham says its about how just hearing a random song on the radio can completely change your perspective on the day … “The kind of song that reaches deep down into your belly and pulls something out of you. A laugh. A cry. A scream. This is a simple song about the universally healing power of music.”
Recorded at the Sonic Ranch just outside of El Paso, Chicamacomico will be released on June 10th. It is now available for pre-order, including CDs for only $5.00.
2. Little Things
3. Just Close Enough
4. The First Year
5. Built to Last
7. The Things We Lost Along the Way
8. Waking Up the Echoes
9. The Hardest Thing
10. All I Needed