American Aquarium released a new album early Friday morning, a record that represents a solid pivot for the longtime roots-rock band. On the heels of BJ Barham’s homespun livestream covers series, the North Carolina singer-songwriter convened his players in an Asheville, North Carolina, studio last November to record a full record of Nineties country tunes.
The result is Slappers, Bangers and Certified Twangers: Vol. One, a straight-forward if loose collection of covers by artists like Trisha Yearwood (“She’s in Love With the Boy”), Sawyer Brown (“Some Girls Do”), Patty Loveless (“I Try to Think About Elvis”), and the late Joe Diffie (“John Deere Green”).
“Most singer-songwriters like to pretend they came out of the womb listening to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, but if you were born in the mid-’80s and lived in the South, you were probably raised on the same steady diet of ’90s radio country as I was,” Barham says. “The kinds of songs that you haven’t heard in 20 years, but when they randomly come on the radio you still miraculously know every word. These songs transport me back to a very specific time and place in my childhood. The summers spent riding around town in the backseat of my dad’s Blazer, windows down, radio up, singing along at the top of my lungs to take my mind off the vinyl seats scalding the back of my legs.”
According to Barham, the album was a clear-cut, welcome departure from his body of work. “Our last few studio albums have been very heavy records, emotionally and thematically,” he says. “So it was really rewarding to enter the studio with one sole purpose: have fun.”
Slappers, Bangers and Certified Twangers: Vol. One is the follow-up to 2020’s Lamentations, produced by Shooter Jennings. Barham and American Aquarium will return to the road in June, with a show at Nashville’s Basement East.