American Aquarium returns to The Jinx on Sept. 7.
If you have already been following the Raleigh-based band and charismatic frontman B.J. Barham, that’s all you need to know. Stop reading and hop over to Ticketfly and snag your ticket ($15).
If you don’t know American Aquarium, you should of course start with the music. The 2006 album “Antique Hearts” showcased Barham’s personal, inventive songwriting, and the records just got better from there.
I still love the rollicking rock and piercing ballads on “Dances For The Lonely” (2009) and “Small Town Hymns” (2010), but the more recent albums have become in many ways even more powerful in their chronicling of our individual and collective struggles to make the most of life.
Many of Barham’s songs are deeply personal stories of his own demons, loves and desires, but the evocative details and lush instrumentation invite the listener inside.
And Barham’s versatile songwriting often tackles bigger issues impacting the South and the nation.
“This ain’t the country my grandfather fought for,” Barham sings on “The World Is On Fire,” the opening track of the 2018 album “Things Change.”
But that new album isn’t just about changes in the country.
After years of hard drinking, draining tours and hardscrabble effort, Barham embraced sobriety in 2014. Since then, he has gotten married, become a father and hired a new band.
For years, the same general group of stellar musicians backed Barham for American Aquarium’s occasional stops in Savannah, but things do indeed change.
“Our priorities when we were in our early 20s change by the time we were in our mid-30s,” Barham told CMT last year about the departure of his longtime band members. “We all sat down, we had dinner together and it just made sense for everybody to step away.”
Back in 2009, I became an immediate fan of American Aquarium when I heard their sound check at The Jinx on the day before St. Patrick’s Day. I couldn’t have predicted then just how complicated the future would be, but I am not surprised that the resilient Barham is still on the road, still writing great songs and still finding new audiences.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email email@example.com.