If you are familiar with BJ Barham then it may be from his touring band American Aquarium and their 2015 album release “Wolves”.
Here with this new album “Rockingham”, we find him stepping out from the band for a moment to release his first solo album. It features 8 very honest and emotional songs inspired by influences from his youth, memories of growing up in his home town. Observations of people, places and things that have stayed with him through the years. As BJ say’s, “A batch of songs about home. My childhood home of Reidsville. My current home of Raleigh. Just every possible definition of what home means to me.”
It’s a great sounding album, nicely uncluttered, focusing on the songs with a simple effective line up of guitar, banjo, bass and drums. The timely inclusion of piano, hammond and harmonica on certain songs bring a balanced variety to coax you through the album. The album itself is an economic 33 minutes which I like and there is more than enough in the 8 songs to make the whole experience thoroughly worthwhile.
The songs are well written and sound very personal but are mainly fictional storytelling. “These songs are human condition stories set in my hometown” says Barham. He handles it excellently and with an honesty that draws you in to the tales of small town America. Not only are these songs beguiling but the melodies are engaging and at times very catchy especially on the gripping sad song “Unfortunate Kind”, an acoustic high point half way through the album. The one and only autobiographical moment on the album is the song “Madeline” penned for his daughter. “a letter of sound advice and Southern attitude” as he describes it.
The delivery and style is not unfamiliar, no one could argue that there is more than a little of a Springsteen sound to this album. It’s BJ Barham’s Ghost of Tom Joad or should that be ghost of Bruce Springsteen. Nebraska with knobs on.
I love those records, so I really enjoyed discovering this album. Great songs, well produced. You could do a lot worse than to let BJ Barham take you by the hand and lead you through these mini American soap operas of life, days and people gone by.
This is a remarkable album. Delicate and beautiful, well thought out with excellently narrative and melodic songs.
Album released 22nd July 2016.
You can catch BJ Barham on his live tour in the UK during July and in August in the USA. See the full list of live dates on his website.
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