Album Reviews

Alex McEwan – Beautiful Lies

(republic media) UK release date: 13 June 2005

Alex McEwan’s life could make a Hollywood film, a biopic similar to What’s Love Got To Do With It or the recently released Ray. Ok, so he hasn’t trounced an abusive spouse or been struck down by blindness, but he’s overcome a mundane existence and followed his dreams.

Here’s a quick version of the Scotsman’s CV: jobs in a multinational company and as a schoolteacher. Deciding to focus on singing and song writing he moved from Glasgow to London. Here, he adopted a novel approach to busking – on trains. (Let’s be honest, this can’t have been an easy feat.) Heading Stateside, he honed his art gigging in Nashville and Los Angeles before recording a demo. Back across the pond, an album followed, as did setting up his own record label, Forge Records.

Rather aptly, pursuing your dreams – something McEwan obviously knows about – is the first track’s theme. Make a Wave, is wonderfully upbeat with violins giving it a Celtic feel, reminiscent of those Irish siblings The Corrs. The lyrics are uplifting and encouraging: “Make a wave…you’re gonna reach that high, don’t let those dreams die.”

Just as emotive is Run Away. The verses are very James Taylor-ish, while the choruses are redolent of the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush collaboration Don’t Give Up. Never the Bride singer Nikki Lamborn (whom Roger Daltrey once said was the best vocalist since the late great wailer Janis Joplin) plays the supportive role.

The up-coming debut single, She Must Be Crazy, is a lovely ballad. Backed simply by a piano and strings, McEwan really sings from the very depths of his soul.

Other songs are equally as excellent, although McEwan’s time in the good ol’ US of A has obviously rubbed off, as a few of his songs – most notably More to Me – feel very Americanised. This may also be thanks to working with Beach Boys‘ associate Lou Natkin.

McEwan’s vocals are pleasant – especially his higher register. At times he’s evocative of Bruce Springsteen whereas on the chillingly stunning title track Beautiful Lies he sounds similar to Sting – indeed the song is so easy on the ear it could have been penned by The Police‘s former front man.

The songs are incredibly mature. No doubt a fact that will set him next to contemporary songwriters David Gray and Damien Rice – as suggested on his press release. High production values (in most part courtesy of Del Amitri producer Mark Freeguard) and an assortment of instruments (including harmonica and saxophone) really add colour to McEwan’s poignant songs.

With two years of hard work, Beautiful Lies is a wonderful debut. In a culture where people with very little talent become stars from such TV entertainment progs as Pop Idol and The X Factor, it’s reassuring to see someone with both the talent and determination to follow his dreams succeed. Fingers crossed Alex McEwan gets the attention he rightly deserves.

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