Chicamacomico is another sturdy and workmanlike collection from an act that’s been awfully great for nearly two decades.
With Turnpike Troubadours still in an apparent holding pattern and The Chicks continuing to forge a more pop-oriented path, American Aquarium is a solid pick for the best band currently recording country music. On their ninth proper studio album, the band doesn’t stray too far from what they do best: A brand of country music that splits the difference between honky-tonk and heartland rock. Chicamacomico doesn’t take any real risks — other than frontman BJ Barham’s willingness to alienate conservative listeners with the occasional pointed political missive, but no one following his social media or paying attention to the band for years should find that surprising at this point — but it does find the band’s current line-up refining its sound. The iteration of American Aquarium on “Wildfire,” “Just Close Enough,” and “Little Things” sounds like a more cohesive outfit than it did on 2020’s Lamentations: The album sounds like the work of a singular band and not just Barham’s back-up musicians. There’s an undercurrent of melancholy and reflection throughout the album — when Barham sings, “I used to be a singer with a family back home / Now I’m just a father and a husband / Who knows his way around a microphone,” on “Little Things,” there’s a sense of inner peace with the maturity in how that perspective has shifted. That Barham sings of his own reliability is actually a sharp bit of auto-critique, as Chicamacomico is another sturdy and workmanlike collection from an act that’s been awfully great for nearly two decades.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2022 | Part 1.