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Roman Alexander - Between You & Me

Roman Alexander. Photo via Twelve6 Entertainment.
I promise you I have not been kidnapped, held hostage, or blackmailed. Like many other kids raised in a relatively liberal suburban area in the 2000s, when discussing music I found myself parroting the pervasive and disingenuous line, "Yeah, I like everything except rap and country." While I quickly shed my aversion to hip-hop during my teenage years, doing the same with country took a bit longer. Probably because the hip-hop of the era was objectively cooler and more fashionable, but I realize now that country can be pretty cool, too.

My taste for rock music made it easy enough to enjoy classic performers like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and the like, but not until the last two years did I begin to honestly appreciate the pop side of the genre. First it was laughing as I sang along to pop-country hits I remembered from childhood -- "Beer For My Horses," "Chicken Fried," "Red Solo Cup," and so on. It was last year, funny enough, with the release of albums from hip-hop-inspired pop-country acts Sam Hunt, Breland, and Kidd G, that I can say I fully conquered my irrational distaste for the genre once and for all. It was as easy as thinking to myself: "I like regular pop music, so why not pop-country?" A smug DIY or indie scene urbanite may recount some story about a conservative country fan saying something bigoted, but when do we let similar experiences paint how we listen to other genres? Not often, really -- nor should we.

Now that my spiel is done (I promise this will not happen when I next write about country music), let's talk about Roman Alexander. Alexander is a singer-songwriter who grew up in Parkville, Missouri, spending his teenage years playing cover sets at bars before moving to Nashville after high school nearly six years ago. In the time since, Alexander worked in tour merchandise for more established acts and other Music City odd jobs until he released his first EP, Between You & Me, through Twelve6 Entertainment this past November.

The five-song release -- which includes contributions from writers who've worked on songs with Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw, Midland, Jason Aldean, and many more -- would not sound out of place on any modern country playlist (Billboard and Spotify have already featured it on theirs). The EP starts off with its two strongest songs. "Beautiful Girls" is an upbeat, jangly pop-country-rock number that, like the following song,"Girl Trouble," references Elvis and features bright, breezy guitar licks and miniature solos throughout. Despite his willingness to use elements of digital production in his arrangements later on, Alexander has a powerful voice and, for the time being, sounds most confident when singing over an electric guitar. Both of these songs open with some fairly cheesy lyrics ("Walkin' out of a cigar bar downtown" and "You're like a vixen in a Tarantino movie," respectively). How forgiving you want to be here is up to you, but I assure you it's all smooth sailing after that.

The next three songs are more of a mixed bag. "Bad For Me" is rather inoffensive, but its acoustic strumming and tender background "woah-ohs" push it dangerously close to sounding like the noxiously bland Christian soft rock that's piped into doctor's offices across the Midwest. The EP's title track utilizes the currently omnipresent finger snap beat, but is far from the worst song to ever do so. While he doesn't sound quite as sure of himself as on the rock songs, Alexander's rhythmic delivery on this one -- reminiscent of Sam Hunt's hit "Body Like A Back Road" -- is likely more passable than many attempting this style right now.

While I personally let the "cigar bar" and "Tarantino vixen" lines slide with ease, "Cocktail Conversations" does not deserve such amnesty. The imagery Alexander uses here -- he's an Old Fashioned, she's a Manhattan -- tries a bit too hard to come off as suave or classy. I'm sure the girl he's trying to woo will still like him if he's drinking a beer or a shot. After all, he's talented, handsome, and potentially the first Kansas City area native to make it big in country music in a long time.

Stream Between You & Me here.

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