American Aquarium (from the album Things Change available on New West Records) by Bryant Liggett
Tell it like it is. The lyrical narrative within rock music seems to work best when said narrative brings a rough around the edges and blue collar story, often delivered like a gut-punch. B.J. Barham has always been a tell it like it is musician, a southern musician ready to buck his surroundings and swim upstream. The vehicle for his song-writing has been American Aquarium, a celebrated roots-rock band recently reinvented with all new players except Barham, acknowledging “Things Change” on every level including album title.
It’s a record built on apologies and revelation, regretful reflection, and calling out topical political nonsense. “This isn’t the country my grandfather fought for” resonates, a line in the opener of “The World is on Fire” that shows where Barham stands on current issues.
Three songs in and “Tough Folks” is a driving number that boasts family pride while questioning political promises and reminding us that life isn’t fair.
The title track in “Things Change” offers up some relationship reflection. “Shadows of You” proves Barham has done his John Prine homework, brutally and beautifully bringing up that time your heart was ripped out and handed back to you. There’s a lot of lament, a lot of knowing Jameson isn’t good for you but it’s still so good, and a big dose of political and personal questioning. Barham calls it like he sees it, even penning the hooky “Work Conquers All” in honor of the state they chose to record this record. It’s less lyrical story-telling, more lyrical observation and at times confession. Often the best narratives are the ones that aim right between the eyes, leaving the lyrical ambiguity behind to give it to you straight.
Listen and buy the music of American Aquarium from AMAZON