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Unamerican
Artist: Unamerican
Label: Universal Records
Length: 12 tracks

Unamerican is very American in the best kind of American way. I’m thinking Neil Young meets The Band down Ryan Adams Boulevard and throws in the tiniest tinge of the measly bit of Matchbox Twenty that is worth throwing in. Basically roots rock with anthemic choruses that stay on the right side of tasteful; very, very tasteful actually. They are British but you'd never know apart from the name. The only time they stray from America is to add a dash of Crowded House. What they also brandish is a deep sense of smile. In the midst of all the melancholy and cool to be depressed angst that is around, here is a band who seem to see something positive about living. Not that they ignore the reasons to be uncheerful, they just find something that might give us a bright light further down the tunnel.

Unamerican is fronted by Steve McEwan who has quite a background. He left South Africa to return to his homeland of England in the late eighties. He was a young man who had been a part of a very radical and quite successful South African band called Friends First who took on apartheid from a deeply spiritual Christian base. He even penned a modern hymn "Great Is The Lord" that has been part of the staple diet of most Churches in the UK for well over a decade. Not for McEwan though the idea of being some kind of Christian singer. He had enough confidence in his ability to dream higher and soon put together his own band, Mother Redcap, before joining World Party. Through World Party he teamed up with Guy Chambers and worked on albums by Robbie Williams. In between times he signed a deal and recorded an album that was ultimately shelved and also led the house band on TV’s late nineties trendy show Late Lunch. So McEwan has hung in there and never given up. This album reveals all of McEwan's sense of relief, passion and hunger as well as the variety of experience picked up along the way to what is a most accomplished debut.

"She’s a Bomb" grabs my ears and makes me feel a unique dichotomy all at once; my melodic core slips into it as some familiar tune that I've loved for years and yet I am also taken aback by how fresh it sounds. It punches me with its immediacy but is packed with so many nuances that I know it has room to grow on you as well. 

McEwan's voice is full of conviction and the riffs and guitar work outs and lovely little grooves all wrap themselves around choruses that reach for the heavens and actually - in the spiritual twists of lyrics that have planes crashing, guns blazing, illusive mysteries vanishing, lovers loving and people just trying to makes sense of life and hopeful hunches of belief - heaven stoops to touch the earth. 

I took Unamerican to the counter in Belfast’s coolest record store and the wise Hector, oracle of all that is cool, says “They are all raving about Ryan Adams, well this is better." Hector doesn’t always get it right but when it comes to Unamerican he is not at all very far wrong!!!!! 

Steve Stockman 11/25/2001
 
 

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has just finished a book on U2 - Walk On; The Spiritual Journey Of U2, is the poetic half of Stevenson and Samuel who have just released their debut album Gracenotes and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster. He has his own web page - Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org. He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.

 
 

 

   
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