Undeniably baby faced, but sounding as mature as anyone and standing at an imposing 6’5″, young Alex Miller is here to re-instill your faith in the future of the country music genre, and maybe in life itself. The Kentucky native is definitely country, with a fiercely traditional and up-tempo swing approach to the genre that leaves no room for interpretation, so much so that even the most cynical country fans are willing to look the other way that his primary resume point so far is his run on American Idol.
Impressing all of the judges by performing one of his original songs “I’m Over You, So Get Over Me” during audition, Alex Miller also performed Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” and Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” on the show before departing before the Top 24. Miller stuck to his guns as a country artist in that most formidable of environments, and his departure shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of his talent, it should be seen as a signifier of his character.
But as we know, even for some winners and runners up of reality singing contests, the day after your final appearance, everything virtually resets back to zero, and you have the very hard task of trying to put together an actual music career. Lucky for Alex Miller though, he starts with the foundation of a strong voice. And for his debut album Miller Time, Alex also benefited from having a mentor in songwriter Jerry Salley who produced this record, and co-wrote many of the album’s original songs with Miller.
From the beginning song “Breaking The Bank,” you fall in love with Alex Miller’s voice, especially his ability to bend his pitch like he’s rocking back and forth on a steel guitar pedal. Lot’s of folks can sing, but it’s this skill of shaping notes that gives Mr. Miller a distinguishing attribute, and one perfectly suited for traditional country. Combine that with a youthful upbeat enthusiasm to help kick the dust off of some old traditional country songs, and it all renders up rather infectiously.
You also appreciate that Alex Miller wrote or co-wrote half of these songs, meaning he’s committed to the craft beyond playing karaoke, and it’s the original songs that set the theme for Miller Time, which is sort of this playful, quirky, and sometimes funny approach to relationships this teenager takes, from the flippant “I’m Done,” to the silly “Girls Must Be Clumsy,” to the more sentimental “Through with You,” and it’s all done in a traditional country style.
And when I say “traditional,” I mean there’s no wiggle room here. You can’t fit an index card between the sound of Alex Miller, and how George Strait would define country music for Merriam-Webster. This is fiddle and steel guitar stuff through and through. RFD-TV country, if that makes sense.
But that also might be the one worry about Alex Miller. Everything here is so perfectly rendered and every note in its proper place, the music and approach ultimately lacks a distinctive character, beyond Alex’s voice. You just wish there was a bit more grit, sweat, or unique flavor here. It needed a little bit of dirt rubbed on it maybe, and a couple of the songs like “Don’t Let The Barn Door Hit Ya” and the honorable, but ultimately predictable “Boys in Uniform” have you wanting a little more from the writing, like you get from “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far From Tennessee,” previously recorded by The Steel Blossoms.
But Miller Time is most assuredly a good foundation for what is sure to be a long country music career for this young man, capped off with a couple of recognizable covers that he and his studio band knock out of the park in the old bluegrass standard “Freeborn Man” made famous by Jimmy Martin, and “I’m Gonna Sing” by Hank Williams.
If true country music is to survive through this generation and into the next, it’s going to need souls committed to the cause that don’t know how to do country music any different than the way it’s supposed to be done. The squared away and supremely talented Alex Miller certainly fits that bill.
1 1/2 Guns Up
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Purchase Alex Miller’s Miller Time