American Made is the first Bodeans record since founding member Sam Llanas left in 2011, dissolving his partnership with Kurt Neumann due to creative differences and the call of a solo career. Apart from questions of whether the band should still call itself the Bodeans, you had to wonder how the band will fare after losing one rock’s more distinctive voices. Well, they seem to be faring pretty well.
This is the best Bodeans record in quite some time. It’s still the same straight-ahead, smooth-edged blend of ballads and heartland rock in which the Bodeans have always trafficked, but this time, it’s a little more consistent from start to finish. Perhaps the only misstep is a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” that sometimes doesn’t work due to some vocal moments that seem at odd with the song’s tone and some stinging guitar lines. If you’re a longtime Bodeans fan, it’s hard not to miss Llanas. You repeatedly find yourself thinking, “That’s where those harmonies would have been,” and Neumann does such a good job of orchestrating the vocals that you’d swear you could hear the ghost of Llanas’s voice hiding in the background on occasion. At the end of the day, though, this is Neumann’s record, and if it’s a harbinger of things to come, the Bodeans name seems in good hands.