American Aquarium have released some brilliant songs. “Burn Flick Die” is one of the best songs about addiction I’ve ever heard. They have one wholly brilliant album, end to end: Lamentations. They also have some stuff that’s good but not great, like last year’s collection of ’90s covers country. Song for song, Chicamacomico is somewhere in the range of both.
BJ Barham is and probably always will be a good songwriter. There should be no doubt of that. His biggest strength is his ability to draw from multiple influences and multiple genres. Easy-and-gentle country, barn-stomping rock, top 40, rootsy Americana, and storytelling folk. Yet this strength can also be a weakness. There were a few spots on Chicamacomico where I felt like American Aquarium were consciously trying to rewrite a song by one of Barham’s favorites. Especially “Waking Up the Echoes,” which is a really nice song but if it’s not his version of Bobby Jean I’ll eat my hat.
In short, Chicamacomico is unlikely to create new fans of this band, but it’s also unlikely to lose them any. It’s a solid record, and a smooth listen beginning to end.