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Sam Llanas

4 A.M. (The Way Home) (Inner Knot Records)

Oct. 18, 2011
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The timing of 50-year-old guitarist/vocalist Sam Llanas' departure from the BoDeans, the band he formed with Kurt Neumann more than 25 years ago in Waukesha, could have been better. After all, the BoDeans were just days removed from releasing Indigo Dreams. But his second solo album, 4 A.M.—full of both yearning and contentment—is the sound of a man who wants to move on.

Four years in the making, 4 A.M. takes its title from an ode to nighttime loneliness. But it could just as well be a recommendation for the best time to spin this warm, intimate and mostly acoustic record. Gone are the dark, ominous Llanas-sung songs that peppered recent BoDeans releases (not to mention 1998's A Good Day to Die, which Llanas released under the moniker Absinthe). Instead, lighter and prettier songs such as album opener “Oh, Celia,” which the BoDeans demoed years ago, and closer “The Way Home” suggest a weight has been lifted.

This 11-song album was recorded, produced, mixed and mastered with tremendous care by Milwaukee's Gary Tanin and features former BoDean Bukka Allen, whose accordion shines on “Fare Thee Well” and a hypnotic version of Cyndi Lauper's “All Through the Night.” Speaking of Llanas' old band, alternate versions of two songs here previously appeared on BoDeans albums: “Shyne” (Mr. Sad Clown) and “Nobody Luvs Me” (Resolution) take on new spellings and are significantly different from—and arguably better than—the other versions.

Welcome to the next phase of your life, Sam.


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