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Sam Llanas

4 A.M. (The Way Home) – 2011 (Inner Knot)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Sam Llanas

With the recent announcement that he has left The BoDeans, this release becomes not a side project for Sam Llanas, but serves to launch a full time solo career. While Llanas is best known for the roots rock sound of The BoDeans, this project delivers mellow ballads.

Much of the focus is on lost love and failed relationships. In Cherry O, Llanas laments how bitterness caused him to overreact and inflict pain on his ex ("You know I never meant to hurt you quite as bad as I did/I only wanted to hurt you a little more than you hurt me"), while in Oh How I Loved You the singer seems to still be trying to figure out what went wrong ("I don't wanna leave here crying/With bitterness or denying/But one thing I'll still ask of you/Please listen when I say/I would have loved you through the pain").

The title track ("4 a.m. can be the hardest time/If you feel a little blue or lonely inside") and The Only One ("Right now I feel this guitar is the only friend I have") serve as companion pieces as each addresses how alienation can be amplified at four in the morning. The cover of Cindy Lauper's hit All Through The Night reveals a more optimistic view of the late night, early morning hours ("This precious time when time is new").

Llanas revisits a pair of BoDean tunes with Shyne and Nobody Luvs Me, changing the spelling and giving each a more laid back arrangement. With Llanas' brilliant compositions and distinctive vocals, this effort nicely kicks off the new solo phase of his career.