AMER­I­CAN AQUAR­IUM

"THINGS CHANGE" (New West)

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Music - Re­view: Steven Wine As­so­ci­ated Press

Amer­i­can Aquar­ium is a most ap­pro­pri­ate name for the band that made "Things Change," be­cause front­man BJ Barham presents his life for all to see. Earnest and in­tense, the North Car­olina na­tive sings about mar­riage, par­ent­hood and di­vorc­ing his for­mer band. He quotes his wife, his fa­ther and Tom Petty. He delves into his drink­ing, his pol­i­tics and his pas­sion for writ­ing songs and right­ing wrongs.

The hu­mor Barham shows in con­cert is mostly ab­sent. But he's lik­able and lit­er­ate, de­liv­er­ing heav­ily au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal heart­land rock with heart on sleeve.

Best is the an­themic opener, "The World Is On Fire," which re­counts the re­ac­tion in the Barham house­hold to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Weepy pedal steel re­flects the mood be­fore Barham sings, "We must go boldly into the dark­ness and be the light."

There's em­pa­thy for those who voted the other way, too. On "Tough Folks" Barham sings, "I saw first­hand what des­per­a­tion makes good peo­ple do."

The al­bum's sup­port­ing cast — in­clud­ing pro­ducer John Full­bright

— is fully in­vested in help­ing Barham ex­plore his in­ner Spring­steen, be­fore power chords give way to twang down the stretch. On the clos­ing "'Til the Fi­nal Cur­tain Falls," a lovely, gospel-tinged bal­lad of de­vo­tion, Barham sounds more re­laxed but still fully com­mit­ted, even as he leads the band out in a spacey coda.

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