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American Aquarium (from the album Chicamacomico on Thirty Tigers Records) (By Lee Zimmerman)
Although they can certainly be credited with playing an important role in the upsurge of insurgent Americana, American Aquarium has also managed to transcend the form, given their astute observations on those things that are both poignant and personal. Their new album, Chicamacomico, proves the point, with songs that delve deeply into the tragedies and travails that life often delivers to those who are least prepared to deal with calamities of any sort. In this case, the band’s primary songwriter, BJ Barham found himself in the crosshairs of a crisis, losing both his mother and grandmother to cruelty of covid and a close friend to suicide. And while it was undoubtably difficult to come to grips with those shattering circumstances, he’s managed to craft a set of songs that convey those sentiments with an honesty and integrity that strikes a universal chord. In so doing, he creates an empathy for others that may be suffering in the same way.
Nevertheless, while many of these songs revolve around remorse, Barham’s ability to impart irony and insight elevates the music in unexpected ways. “Just Close Enough” speaks frankly about how certain couples find a level of comfort in their relationship even when it becomes evident they’ve drifted apart. ”All I Needed” speaks to the redemptive powers of making music. The sad soliloquy “The First Year” reflects on the loss of a loved one and all the memories of a life left behind, never to be shared again.
So too, although much of the able is drenched with sadness and remorse, it does have its emphatic moments as well, from the easy stride and reassurance of “Little Things” to the restive refrain of “All the Things We Lost Along the Way”. American Aquarium — BJ Barham (vocals), Shane Bocker (guitars), Rhett Huffman (organ, Moog bass, acoustic guitar), Neil Jones (pedal steel, acoustic guitar), Ryan Van Fleet (drums, percussion, acoustic guitar), and Alden Hedges (bass, vocals, acoustic guitar) — are a resilient bunch, even though they the pain diminishes the promise as they survey various scenarios. That said, Chicamacomico is a decidedly affecting piece of work, one that ought to gain American Aquarium the greater awareness they so decidedly deserve.
Halfway into the year thus far, Chicamacomico is already a clear contender as a pick for Americana album of the year. It’s a designation this band clearly deserves. (By Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of American Aquarium from AMAZON
For more information and purchase options, please visit the American Aquarium website
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