Written by Eddie Ferranti
The phrase “what goes around comes around” seems to work to me when speaking about the band American Aquarium. We had been exposed to their rowdy alt-country sound since 2012 at smaller venues, but this gig was more open and free for their assault type presentation with a revamped line-up in the killer cool Heights Theater in Houston, Tx. Say what you will about AA’s past band members, but this moniker is firmly held by the lead singer BJ Barham. After over 3000 live shows played (which is still the best way to see this act) thru 2017 the band fell apart with only Barham standing. His bulldog never say die attitude made him assemble a stud collection of musicians and lure Oklahoma native stud songwriter John Fullbright to produce the new album. Toss in appearances by John Moreland and Jamie Lin Wilson and you get “Things Change”, the new 2018 release which represents BJB’s message very well ! He was back to square one and made it work.
The new pieces in AA are smokin’ Shane Boeker on lead electric guitar, Joey Bybee on drums, Ben Hussey on bass, and slick pedal steel from Adam Kurtz. The attraction to Barham’s songs seem simple to me because he tells the truth. Focusing on topics from his battles with addictions , saying this ain’t the country my grandpa fought for, and future adult parenting worries hit home with me big time. I remember struggling with the idea of bringing children into the world in the 1970’s and here he does it in 2018.
Songs like “Losing Side of Twenty-Five”, “Family Problems”, political spit fire “The World Is on Fire”,” “When We Were Younger Men” about past mates, “One Day at a Time”, and anthem like “Tough Folks” are all head scratchers in a good way to make you think. Barham’s style is more apt to be fronting Nine Inch Nails at times with veins popping everywhere feeding his bombastic emotions out into the audience making them feel his emotional rages. It works with the younger red dirt crowd who seem ready to start doing something about what is going on in this cell phone lead generation.
Personal fave of ours though still is “Man I’m Supposed To Be” . BJB’s bull-in-a-China shop approach to addressing a polarized society may come off as loud and too much in your face at times, but it is effective. Dude rebuilt a band and in doing so kept his brutally honest views out there while toning down the anger and staying on the road where they belong! “Work Conquers All” is a motto for not only this hard working band, but all of us in life. Work hard and it restores you and pays off down the road…….nice message to leave ya with other than go see some live music please…..
Eddie “Edge” Ferranti
Houston Music Review