By Joshua Wallace

Fans were a bit worried when American Aquarium effectively disbanded and reformed with new members behind BJ Barham.  The new band’s first album and American Aquarium’s overall 7th full length studio album Things Change will ease any questions you had in your mind about the new lineup.  In fact, American Aquarium may have released their best album to date. While this record is still very much a country rock record, it is more country forward than their past efforts. Their new pedal steel player Adam Kurtz is more heavily featured on this album than with the band’s previous records and that is a good thing.

I’m not usually a big fan of political records, but BJ Barham does it right here.  By the end of this record, you know how Barham feels about the state of the world, but it doesn’t feel like he is beating a dead horse by the end either.  This is evident in the opening track “The World Is On Fire”. It’s a country rocker that would fit well on a later Tom Petty album that finds BJ Barham looking at the state of the world as he struggles to deal with what it has become.  “Tough Folks” is another country rocker with a political edge to it. It’s a song about how tough people outlast tough times like the ones the country is currently going through.

There are some good country leaning tunes mixed in with the rockers though.  “When We Were Younger Men” is a country ballad that strips back the band’s sound and focuses on BJ’s storytelling as he tells stories of days past.  Another good country tune is “I Gave Up The Drinking (Before She Gave Up On Me)”. It’s a good love song that turns the country drinking song upside down and it creates a successful relationship instead of ending one.  From a successful relationship to an unsuccessful one, we go to the intimate and sparse “Shadows Of You”. It’s a mostly acoustic tune about missing a recent love. I love the line “like a minor chord, in a sad country song” when he is describing how lonely he is.  Finally, the album ends with “The Final Curtain Falls” which may be my favorite BJ Barham song. It’s another country love ballad where BJ is pledging his love till the final curtain falls. Like many songs on this album, the pedal steel guitar shines on this one and it makes it that much better.

The more I have listened to it, I think Things Change is American Aquarium’s best album yet.  That’s a strong statement to make about a band that is now 7 albums in, but the main factor here is BJ Barham.  He’s put together a great band to make these songs everything they need to be and that is what counts. If you like country rock mixed in with some strong traditional country sounds and really good songwriting, give this record a spin.  Be sure to buy or stream this album wherever you get your music fix on Friday June 1st when the record releases everywhere.

Favorite Tracks : The World Is On Fire, Tough Folks, When We Were Younger Men, I Gave Up The Drinking (Before She Gave Up On Me), Shadows Of You, The Final Curtain Falls

American Aquarium – Things Change (2018)

  1. The World Is On Fire
  2. Crooked + Straight
  3. Tough Folks
  4. When We Were Younger Men
  5. One Day At A Time
  6. Things Change
  7. Work Conquers All
  8. I Gave Up The Drinking (Before She Gave Up On Me)
  9. Shadows Of You
  10. The Final Curtain Falls
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