American Aquarium Dives Deep Into Love And Loss On 9th Studio Album ‘Chicamacomico’

A group of people standing outside
Joshua Black Wilkins

American Aquarium’s 9th studio album, Chicamacomico, is finally here.

And of course, there’s a ton of good stuff to get into from the North Carolina band on this record, which was recorded at the famous Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas with producer Bradley Cook.

It was also 100% crowd funded, which is absolutely incredible, because it means people are supporting completely independent, quality music. While there’s no massive marketing budget or big push to get these songs on country radio, there’s a level of honesty and authenticity that a lot of Nashville labels could only dream of.

The band previously dropped two singles from the project in the lead-up to release day, including “All I Needed” and “Wildfire.”

And for a little context on where the inspiration for this new album comes from, Chicamacomico is a reference to the small settlement that was on Hatteras Island, off the coast of North Carolina at the Outer Banks.

It was a heavily wooded and dense forest that was actually home to Native American settlers for hundreds (potentially thousands) of years. Eventually, as more British settlers began to arrive in the 1700s and 1800s and the groups began to mix and marry, it became three separate villages known as Rodanthe (yes, from the Nicholas Sparks movie) Waves, and Salvo.

My early favorite from the 10-song tracklist is “Waking Up the Echoes,” a solo write by frontman BJ Barham about a friend who committed suicide. He throws in so many beautiful details about their relationship and all of the good times they had, assuring himself that if only his friend would’ve called him, he could’ve changed something.

He opens with a conversation he’s having in his head with his friend, asking about his family and remembering how good his mom’s sweet tea was, that I can just hear myself having with people I know back home:

“How’s your Mom and them?
I haven’t seen your folks in ages,
She was always kind,
Had the best sweet tea high school me ever tasted,

Weddings and funerals used to always get me down,
These days they seem to be the only thing
That ever bring me back to town”

And there’s also a specific reference to the trouble they got into in the “back of that Short Sugar’s parking lot,” which is a little Bar-B-Q restaurant in his hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina, for reference.

In a tweet, BJ said one of the lines in the song, “waking up the echoes in the canyons of my mind,” is one he’ll always be proud of:

It’s heavy, but it’s beautiful and an important topic that most country artists wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole:

And another great one to check out is “The Hardest Thing,” which was a co-write by BJ and Hayes Carll. The narrator finds himself in the wake of the loss of his wife, where he admits that he’s lonely without her and is drinking more than he should.

There’s a glimmer of hope at the end, though, as he tells her he’s trying to keep the things that she loved alive, like the flowers she planted in the spring, saying:

“Even though my thumb ain’t green, I think they’re gonna make it.”

It’s beautiful heartbreaking, and well worth your time to dive into:

But don’t just take my word for it, make sure you check out the entire album for yourself. There’s plenty more good stuff from one of the best bands in the independent scene on this new project.

Honestly, I could probably write a dissertation on all of the deeper meanings and themes masterly woven throughout each song and lyric, because BJ’s writing is always that good.

If you like real, authentic, and honest country music, you’ll love this record from BJ and the boys.

Chicamocomico tracklist:

1. Chicamocomico
2. Little Things
3. Just Close Enough
4. The First Year
5. Built to Last
6. Wildfire
7. The Things We Lost Along the Way
8. Waking Up the Echoes
9. The Hardest Thing
10. All I Needed

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock