Rockingham is the solo debut album from American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham, the album takes it title from the North Carolina county where he was born and spent his formative years, despite the title the album is not an autobiographical affair, with the exception of one track Madeline written for his daughter, instead Barhams fictional characters and stories reflect and take inspiration from his hometown.
“This is the first record I’ve ever made that’s not autobiographical—it’s fictional narrative in a very real place,” Barham says. “These songs are human condition stories set in my hometown, Reidsville.”
The video for the title track is set in Barhams hometown Reidsville, and included shots of his parents’ front porch and a tobacco barn where he worked as a teenager.
Adopting troubadour mode and drawing back from the rock ‘n’ roll roots music of American Aquarium the album inception was borne of an experience while touring with the alt-country band in Europe, the band were playing in Belgium at the time of the awful tragedy in Paris on the Friday the 13 of November, when gunmen and suicide bombers ran riot in the city leaving 130 people dead and many more injured and scarred physically and mentally for life.
“The onslaught of text messages, voicemails and everything that came in the next day sparked something in me,” Barham remembers. “In the next two days, the entire record was written.”
On his return to the US Barham kept the momentum of the album going and teamed up with the co-producer of American Aquarium’s album Wolves Bradley Cook, Cook’s brother Phil, Kyle Keegan and American Aquarium’s Ryan Johnson and Whit Wright to rehearse and record the album in just over a week at Durham NC Overdub Lane.
BJ Barham – Road To Nowhere
I like this album, like it a lot, of it’s type I’m struggling to recall an album as good as this one, though I have one reservation, because I love American Aquarium too and I’m hoping Barham has no need to choose between solo and band recordings only anytime soon.
If you’d like to hear songs from the album up close and personal BJ is in the UK this month and has these dates lined-up:
16-Jul Truck Festival, Oxford
18-Jul The Bicycle Shop, Norwich
19-Jul The Albert, Brighton
20-Jul Gullivers, Manchester
21-Jul The Chattery, Swansea
22-Jul The Borderline, London
The album was funded through a successful Pledge campaign and will be released in the UK by At The Helm Records on July the 22nd coinciding with the London show,
“This is just an outlet for a songwriter. It’s me being able to do something different. This is like people who love their jobs, picking up hobbies,” says Barham, “This is an exercise for myself.”
Chocks Away is the excellent new album from UK alt-country band The Blazing Zoos , imagine if the The Old 97’s had met and started playing together in a West London pub and you’ll get a sense of the their sound and style, the four piece are fronted by Australian born journalist and author Andrew Mueller (guitar) with Lara Pattison on bass/vocals, Gen Matthews on drums and Jeremy Jones on guitar.
Though there’s a certain Britishness to their brand of country-pastiche the band squeeze in great country blues stomper about an Aussie Rules footballer and a cover of Sergeant Small to add an antipodean twist to the mix too.
I first stumbled upon the bands music via a track that appeared on Volume 4 of the excellent What’s Kickin’ compilation series put out by Stove Pony Records which I highly recommend along with Chocks Away.
Hayes Carll returns to the UK next month in support of his forthcoming album Lovers and Leavers you can catch him live starting in London on April 21st.
April 21st London, Kings Place
April 22nd Bristol,The Tunnels
April 24th Glasgow, CCA
April 25th Newcastle, Cluny 2
April 27th Manchester, The Deaf Institute
April 28th Nottingham, The Glee Club
April 29th Milton Keynes, The Stables
May 1st Kilkenny, Ireland, Kilkenny Roots