December 30th was my second time seeing American Aquarium this year. I’m convinced I would see them every week if I could. As a live band, they are just that compelling, and B.J. Barham is just that charismatic of a frontman and songwriter.
I was somewhat anxious that the previous performance had been a fluke. Some trickery or illusion.
Those concerns were quickly and assuredly put to rest. If the set opening “The World Is On Fire” wasn’t sufficient enough to waylay those fears, the following “Tough Folks” and “Casualties” segue into “St. Mary’s” most certainly did. There were the flat out rockers of “Burn. Flicker. Die” and “Witchita Falls” and the more introspective and personal declarations of “Jacksonville” and “Southern Sadness.”
Barham is one hell of a showman, and knows how to work an audience. This show managed to retain the energy of the show earlier in the year, while being itself, unique. It’s obvious that Barham pays attention to the smallest details in order to make each show special. Rather than barnstorming through with the same setlist as previously, he created one that showcased gems that weren’t played in the previous stop. That’s an artist that cares about his craft, and his audience. Furthermore, the Tower Theatre crowd got a slightly different stage presence from Barham at this performance. This time we got an introduction to the storyteller. With introductions to songs like “Losing Side of Twenty-Five” and “Crooked & Straight” we heard the origins of those songs. We also got the humor and the banter with the more, shall we say, inebriated audience members. So yeah, I’m already ready for my next evening with American Aquarium, and also next on my bucket list is catching a solo B.J. Barham show. Fingers crossed. All things American Aquarium can be found here: http://www.americanaquarium.com/
As if the evening wasn’t special enough, the support for the show was pretty out of this world as well. Ms. Jamie Lin Wilson, who was also joined by special guest, Oklahoma’s own Bryon White accompanying on acoustic guitar. Wilson shared with us songs from her outstanding recent release, “Jumping Over Rocks”. It’s an album I picked up at the merch table and now, I regrettably realize I left off my best of 2018. Wilson’s songwriting is rich and warm. I wasn’t surprised to find out her songwriting hero is John Prine. The overall content and ‘feel’ of her songs strongly emulate Prine familiarly, yet in a manner distinctly unique. Her set and engagement with the fans was strong. Not one to miss an opportunity, Barham made sure to utilize her harmonies by having her join for a pair of songs. Of which, the solo rendition of Barham’s deeply personal, “One Day At A Time” was made even more memorable by Wilson’s assistance. More information on Jamie Lin Wilson can be found here: https://jamielinwilson.com/
Also note they both appeared on our year-end poll, here: Readers’ Vote: Best Album of 2018 Top 20 Poll Results With Playlist