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  • Gary @ BootsofUK

‘Rodeo Star’ by Alex McEwan review

Alex is an Americana channeling, Kent based Scotsman whose lyrics cut straight to the heart.

Before taking a break from music, his debut album 'Beautiful Lies' gained critical acclaim and the single 'Make a Wave' was a favourite on the BBC Radio 2 playlist, getting regularly airplay thanks to Terry Wogan, Jeremy Vine and Steve Wright, who dubbed Alex "the man with the pork pie hat."

Alex went about forging a new career in the world of finance, however in 2019, an impromptu open mic night in the Caribbean opened a second chapter for Alex's music career. Soon the songs were flowing and his single 'In A World We Didn't Know' was greeted with a warm reception like an old friend amongst the UK Americana community. This resulted in almost half a million streams to date, an achievement all the more remarkable as Alex hadn't released new music for some 16 years. This is a clear testament to Alex's musicality and lyrical abilities.

“After coming back to the UK from Nashville, it all seemed like a different world, but hanging out with the folks in Nashville I realised we have all got dreams. The great thing about Nashville is that it’s a place where dreamers like myself are welcomed.”

'Rodeo Star' details the story of a man whose big ambitions have reimagined unfulfilled. It doesn't focus on a 'Rodeo Star' as the title suggests, but is more focused on the narrative of a cab driver in the heart of Nashville. It captures how we have dreams, and how we sometimes have to accept those dreams are just that, and won't materialise into anything. It's a song of yearning and nostalgia and its these topics that make the song so engaging and relatable. These are paired with his dusky soul voice and a fleeting fictional cameo from Johnny Cash.

The song was written by Alex who also co-produced the track alongside Lou Natkin (Brian Wilson, and Joan Jett). The mixing can courtesy of Ian Grimble (Bear's Den, Mumford & Sons, Daughter). Backing vocals are provided by Anthony Clark (Elton John, Rick Ashley & Eva Cassidy) as well as drums being provided by Paul Winter-Hart of Kula Shaker.

Alex has previously supported Katie Melua on her UK tour, playing to 60,000 people and receiving significant support from BBC Radio 2. At the end of July 2023, Alex is supporting The Shires in Kelvingrove.

"Roll on the night

When they bring down the lights on you 

Your the Rodeo Star 

Just playin’ the part

Of a movie in your heart"

Interestingly, the song starts with the chorus, and can be perceived in different ways. The first line for example could reference gambling and you're taking a chance on your dark moments (night); yet it could also be interpreted as looking forward to the nightlife and that's when you really thrive "When they bring down the lights in you". The "Rodeo Star" is perhaps aptly depicting life, sometimes we're riding the bull (metaphor of life) and sometimes we're jolted from what we were expecting, forced sometimes to play the part and not demonstrate our emotions. Just like an actor in a movie you have to adapt to the script as much as the spontaneity life throws at us.

"Got a cowboy in my car

And he thinks he’s a Rodeo Star

But when the lights go down and night comes round

And I’m alone in my heart."

Cowboy could be a reference to our younger more free yet reckless selfs, yet 'Rodeo Star' shows his ambition. Reference to 'the lights go down' could be relating to our mental health, or our inner spark, flickering or dwindling when things get challenging. Being alone in oneself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but one must have the strength and endurance to overcome any darkness that tries to breach your light.

"On a runaway American dream

Got a Cadillac painted in green

And as I pick up my ride

I head out on a night

Only I could dream."

The imagery of a 'runaway American dream' is quite vague yet vivid. We all get caught up in chasing success and prosperity through hard work. It's interesting that the Cadillac is painted green, the colour of envy. Having transport of our own enables independence, and can also bring about a perception of status. The song then repeats the chorus, reminding us how people, including ourselves can play parts so it may not necessarily appear to be true love.

"But my old man he said to me

You know son if it’s meant it can be

But as I’m passing these streets full of dead beats

Wondering which one might become me"


I find it nice how the song references a life lesson imparted by their father. These are very wise words and can create the drive we need to succeed, 'if it's meant it can be.' Comparison is drawn to someone who has faced many challenges, and is considered 'full of dead beats.' Yet no one is a 'dead beat' it's just a case of finding their passion, what motivates them? It's interesting considering 'wondering which one might become me.' Proving that inspiration and motivation can come from anywhere.

"And I stop to pick up my last fare

Down in Nashville’s East Music Square 

And Johnny Cash gets in jumps in my back

And I say hey man not even my mum sits there."

It could be perceived that stopping for the last fare is taking stock of the here and now. Being surrounded by music and other creative people can then help reinvigorate and reignites you, even drawing upon legends such as Johnny Cash. The reference to 'not even my mum sits there' suggests how much of a high regard Johnny Cash (and perhaps more broadly music) is held, and deemed to be influential to our lives.

The song then returns to the chorus once again.

"They don’t make them the way they used to do

Old Hank he wails out to Emmylou (Emmylou Emmylou)

But I’m just a cowboy on autocue

Got a movie in my heart... La La La La La La La."

It's a sad state of affairs, however nothing is made the way they used to, although that in itself is it's strength. Much like us, it creates uniqueness, and quirks. having 'Old Hank he wails out to Emmylou' could be deemed to be from the radio in the taxi, speaking to her heart. Conversely, it could be perceived to be wailing out for the taxi that is the focus of 'Rodeo Star'. Reference to being a 'cowboy on autocue' is a reference to the dialogue between taxi driver and passenger.

The song returns once again to the chorus, closing the song.

'Rodeo Star' is already released and is available to download and stream form your usual music streaming service.

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