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Review: Sam Llanas, 4.A.M. (The Way Home)

Sam Llanas
4.A.M. (The Way Home)
[Inner Knot (2011)]

Sam Llanas has one of the most distinctive, appealing voices in all of rock music. As lead singer and guitarist for the BoDeans, he was one half of one of the great vocal duos; his sweet grit and gravel complemented Kurt Neumann’s edgy smoothness as they created irresistible harmonies that were never Everly—but were pretty darned close. As for Llanas’s sound, it was that of youthful rebellion combined with an older-than-he-was wisdom. He recently left the BoDeans after 25 years, but that voice prevails and moves forward on his new, mostly acoustic, solo release 4 A.M (The Way Home).

“It’s a night record, a nocturnal record, thematically about things that happen in the night,” says Llanas of the 10 originals and one cover that touch on loneliness, love, and loss. “Fare Thee Well” has a melodious, contrapuntal chorus that Llanas stunningly brings home. No surprise, as he’s always done that so intuitively. He is a true stylist on “Nobody Luvs Me,” which features terrific earthy percussion right up front in the mix. The version of the Cyndi Lauper favorite “All Through The Night,” has an accordion laying a folky foundation and bringing a new sonic ambiance to that beautiful piece. And the final track, “The Way Home,” is a gentle anthem which honors the past, embraces forgiveness, and fosters inner peace.

4 A.M. is more like a conversation than a listening session. How wonderful that after all these years the musical dialogue continues with this trusted and talented artist.

—Ellen Geisel (Ballston Lake, NY)

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