Alex McEwan “In A World We Don’t Know”

Blower Hill Recordings, 2023

Sumptuous production values on the Glaswegian’s long-overdue return.

artwork for Alex McEwan album "In a World We Don't Know"There is so much to admire about Alex McEwan’s journey from his days teaching in London, busking on the London Underground and even selling copies of The Big Issue. A Glaswegian whose early influences included both rock and country, McEwan is a resourceful and adventurous spirit. A spell in Nashville led to his début album, the 2005-released ‘Beautiful Lies’, following which he found himself on the BBC Radio 2 playlist and touring alongside Katie Melua.

So why the long wait for a follow-up? The answer may be found in the loss of close family members and major lifestyle changes that saw McEwan trade the uncertain life of a troubadour for a job in banking, before an ‘open mic’ slot while on vacation prompted him to reconnect with his muse and some unfinished business.

So the challenge faced by Alex McEwan was how to bridge a nearly twenty-year hiatus with his belated sophomore album, ‘In A World We Don’t Know’. The unusual back-story may explain the whole-hearted commitment that he has invested in his new record. Determined to make up for lost time, his commitment to the project is clear, from the soul-baring lyrics right through to the conceptual promo videos. Overseeing every aspect of the process, McEwan brings music from his kitchen table to an international audience.

Despite his lengthy absence from the music scene, McEwan has maintained an impressive address-book, with the likes of legendary American producer David Kershenbaum as consultant, “Strictly Come Dancing” Music Director Dave Arch and string arranger Pete Harvey all contributing. Co-producers Graham Noon and Austin Moorhead deserve great credit, along with Ted Jensen for the mastering, while Nashville-based Brittany Hadley provides terrific support on vocals.

The opening track and single-release, ‘Bee In A Honeypot’ has Scotland’s Lorne MacDougall on pipes and whistle and features the sumptuous orchestration characteristic of the record, overseen by McEwan himself. This continues on the title-track and on the reflective ‘Hold Your Hands Out To Me’, with Alan Dunn on accordion, before a symphonic cover of Lee Ann Womack’s ‘I Hope You Dance’, rivalling any version of this emotive song.

‘Fly Away’ has more lush strings and a choral arrangement, though its infectious hook could just as easily see McEwan busking it at the tube stations of his past, a good indicator of a well-written song. And though ‘This Feeling Again’ celebrates a relationship, it also expresses his overdue return to the music scene –

“It’s a miracle, a second chance and it never comes too late ….
So here I am, facing everything that I was running from
So here I am, in front of everything that I gave up on”.

On ‘Rodeo Star’ the Glaswegian goes full country with pedal-steel and anthemic chorus before closing with the redemptive ‘On Top Of The World’, co-written with Lasse Anderson. ‘In a World We Don’t Know’ confirms that Alex McEwan’s talent has lain dormant too long. One senses that it won’t be another twenty years before he returns to the recording studio.

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8/10
8/10

About Chas Lacey 15 Articles
My musical journey has taken me from Big Pink to southern California. Life in the fast lane now has a sensible 20mph limit which leaves more time for listening to new music and catching live shows.
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