Fabulous Evening Of Storytelling And Song
I knew about American Aquarium, an alt-country/rock band from North Carolina, but until a few months ago could not have told you that BJ Barham fronts that band. I received his début solo release, Rockingham, and knew I had to see him perform.
Luckily, BJ had a show at the Middle East Upstairs toward the end of his ‘The Great 48 Tour’, and I was able to attend this marvelous show. On this tour, he is playing at least one show in all 48 contiguous states!
Rockingham was born in November 2015 as American Aquarium was touring in Europe when the Paris nightclub was attacked. As an American rock band, they were hustled out of Belgium and holed up in a hotel for several days while trying to determine if the tour could continue. BJ wrote the entire album during that time.
BJ is a fabulous storyteller, both in his songs and in his performance style. He admitted that he does not chat as much at an American Aquarium show, but at a solo acoustic show highlighting his ability as a singer-songwriter, it made sense to talk about the genesis of his songs.
He spoke of growing up in a tiny town in North Carolina that was ruled by the tobacco industry as a preface to “American Tobacco Company”. He spoke of being the first in his family to be something other than a tobacco farmer. And he told of writing a song to his unborn (and not yet conceived) daughter.
BJ told us he does not do cover songs, but made an exception for “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’, a tribute to his favorite songwriter, Guy Clark, who died last year. There was a tribute show to Clark last year in which BJ participated; when I saw Steve Earle, a close friend of Clark, at an in-store event two weeks ago, Earle mentioned that same show!
He played all the songs from Rockingham as you would expect from a show supporting a new album, but also played a number of American Aquarium songs. For most, the audience listened intently but by the encore were singing audibly to those songs.
Opening the show was Charley Crockett, a former street performer in New Orleans, New York, and Europe, who played his gritty version of country blues. I first saw Charley several months ago with a full band opening for The Turnpike Troubadours (interestingly, BJ with American Aquarium has opened many shows for the Troubadours) and loved him!
This was a completely different performance since he appeared solo, but it was no less enjoyable. The country side of his style was more pronounced and I liked it as much.
He calls his style country blues, and the blues side seemed more pronounced at the full band show, but I thoroughly loved him.
Unfortunately, the audience was quite small for the show although most people were enthralled by his performance. It was extremely quiet, especially for a standing venue, and I loved that.
This was an intimate performance that might have been better suited to a seated venue, but I loved it anyway! BJ is ending the tour working his way down the east coast, with Charley supporting him at the remaining shows. If they will be in a city near you, try not to miss the show.
Thanks to BJ Barham for the ticket; all opinions are my own.
Posted on June 27, 2017, in concert photos, concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged alt country music, American Aquarium, BJ Barham, boston, Charley Crockett, concert photos, concert review, country blues, Country music, Middle East Upstairs, music. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.