When you hear twin fiddles and steel guitar, you’re listening to the sound of the American heart. Yes kids, it’s back. Our little safe haven from bubblegum pop music has made it’s annual return and we’re promised it will be filled with as much gusto as your Uncle Barry’s cheeks with a pouch of Red Man.
Remember Erika Jo? Yeah, me neither. Ok I lied. Her life size poster is hung up on my bathroom door. Well this season promises to pony up to the bar and deliver a grandiose helping of talent.
Ladies and Gentleman…Start Your Engines
What kind of changes do we have in store for us? How about canning last years duo of Laurel and Hardy. Say hello to Wynonna. You may remember her as the artist formerly known as Wynonna Judd but for now it’s just plain ole Wynonna. Or my, my, my Shy-nonna as I affectionately like to call her.
Wynonna’s cute little sidekick this season is Cowboy Troy. Cowboy Troy made a cameo last season with Big and Rich…who coincidentally happen to open up the show with a contemporary ditty complete with stage midgets and deerskin vests and tassels.
Along with the change in host’s we will have many more guest stars. From Kenny Rogers to Larry the Cable Guy, we’re going to be treated to a cornucopia of country clichés.
We’re also given a flashback look of how our ten contestants came to be. It’s your usual fare of dreamers and wannabes. Some have voices of angels, others sound like they just threw up after a night of chugging Budweiser.
There’s other changes as well. Yes we still have the hunky Phil Vassar and the lovable yet terrifying Anastasia Brown but filling the revolving third seat each week will be guest judges. Apparently Bret Michaels singing gig never got up to speed to warrant him back for another season. Instead, Big and Rich are the first up to tackle the challenge. As if this wasn’t too much of a shake up, at the end of tonight’s show, one of the ten performers will be packing sand and heading home.
So sit back folks. Empty your spittoon and undo the top button to your spray painted-on Wranglers. Nashville Star is brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue.
This Honky-tonk Train Is About To Leave The Station
The first up to perform is Casey Rivers, a native of Texas. Casey grew up poor and slept four siblings to a bed in a fifteen foot camper. This oughta prove a godsend when it comes to going on tour. Aside from skeet shooting and wearing camouflage, Casey enjoys dabbling in the art of cowpie throwing and singing.
Casey starts out strong with a little number by George Strait called Heartland which was made popular in the movie Pure Country. Blessed with dreamy looks and a guitar at his side, Casey sounds good with his country voice.
Anastasia announces that Casey is the first one to make her toes curl. I’m assuming she meant ’currently’, that is. She thinks his blues-y voice will set him apart. Phil wants him to work on his stage presence and thinks his solid country voice can give him a shot at winning the whole thing. Big and Rich give two thumbs up and give props to his song selection.
Melanie Torres hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This vixen is a former runner-up Miss New Mexico and comes from a family who spoke Spanish growing up mixed with a little Cherokee Indian. She has since relocated to Nashville to take up what all aspiring country singers do: bartending.
Melanie is smoking hot as she sings a Nashville Star staple, When God Fearing Women Get The Blues and I’m immediately hypnotized by the beauty of her voice and well, who are we kidding here, her looks. It’s a feeling like this. It’s centrifugal motion, it’s perpetual bliss. It’s that pivotal moment. It’s, ah, impossible.
But aside from vanity, she really did sound good. Anastasia loved her voice but cautions her to keep her past beauty pageant life behind her. John Rich thinks she sang her ass off while Big simply adds, “You rocked the casbah!”. Phil chimes in with a simple “wow!”. Wynonna prods Melanie to give up some more scoop. It seems underneath her make-up, she likes to get down and dirty. She loves the outdoors and enjoys roasting a few weenies over the fire.
Hailing from Indiana is Nicole Jamrose. Nicole is the oldest contestant at the tender age of 33. This free spirited talent is married with two kids. After putting her career on the shelf for a while, Nicole decided to pick it back up and see where it would lead. Her husband is hopeful for a successful gig as he has always dreamed of getting a Hummer. Double entendre anyone?
Nicole also plays her guitar and perfoms a rousing rendition of Pickin’ Wildflowers. Phil believes there is no one else like her in country music. Rich keeps questioning her if she knows the true meaning of the song. Not sure what that has to with her performance, however. Anastasia thinks the bar has been raised very high this season so she’ll need to raise it even higher.
As a self proclaimed dork, Chris Young is thankful he has grown out of the Coke bottle glasses and blossomed into a country stud. He’s cautious about the difference between cocky and wanting to win. He preferring the latter.
In a voice reminiscent of Joe Nichols, Chris gets the crowd up and clapping during his performance of Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. Chris also plays the gee-tar and sports a cowboy hat that would make Toby Keith proud.
Big and Rich trade banters about his tongue being out too much to which elicited the standard Brokeback Mountain punch line. Anastasia feels he has what it takes but tells him he needs to loosen up. Phil thought he sounded too much like Joe Nichols and would like to see more originality from Chris.
Another native from New Mexico is Jared Ashley. Jared loves how he has done so much that he never planned to do. A stint in the Navy was one of the best things he has done. He looks back on the last decade and is amazed at all he has done and looks forward to the next ten more. Heck, if this doesn’t work out, he can take this job and shove it.
Jared plays and sings his way to a robotic cover of Hicktown. I must say that the one thing I’ve always liked about Nashville Star is that even the most mundane performances are still pretty good.
Anastasia agrees with me and thinks his performance was vanilla and bland. She thinks this will the first and last time we’ll see him on stage. Big and Rich disagree. They feel he is the only honky-tonk performer in the group. Phil liked his energy and thought he did great.
Monique LeCompte has the reality genre pegged. She thinks she is the “fat girl” of the show which kind of concerns me. Luckily this show isn’t so much as bent on looks as it is about talent. I sincerely hope she can let the stereotypes fall to the wayside and perform some kick ass songs. Monique was raised by her grandparents and has always wanted to be the center of attention.
Like We’ve Never Loved At All by Faith Hill is Monique’s selection for the night. I like it. She wears a bit more emotion on her sleeveless arms and there’s a sense of pain hiding behind her eyes. You just know she’s thinking whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance.
John Rich thinks she is a gifted singer but feels she is better suited for Broadway or pop while a chorus of boos erupts from the crowd. Anastasia feels the same and warns her to walk away from the theatrical. Phil thinks she’ll be here for another week but cautions her that there are some talented women in the group. Wynonna reassures her that she is much more than a number on a scale and to never compromise who she is.
Oh boy, does Shy Blakeman have a story to tell. While he readily admits to not having the best voice in the group, he reminds us that people don’t go to hear to a show, they go to see a show. True, but if the singer sounds like donkey doo-doo, I’m outta there. Shy was shot point blank in the neck and from that day on, he has been driven to be a star.
Shy makes up for his vocals with an entertaining cover of Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance by Rusty Weir. With his long blonde hair, tattoos and southern rock look, Shy sings barefoot to pay homage to the holy ground that the musical stage is.
Big and Rich thought he was able to pull it off using his theatrics to compensate for his weaker voice. Anastasia is still teetering on the fence on how she feels about him. Phil adds that some of the best bands don’t always have the best singers. So at least we can all agree that he can perform. Whether or not he can sing, well, we’ll just have to wait.
Kristen McNamara wants us all to know that she’s not your typical California girl. Yes she’s blonde, is anatomically correct in every way and has a bubbly personality. But she also has a loving soldier boyfriend she met on a flight to…wait, she never told us.
What started out as a flashback to the days of Patsy Cline, turned into a bizarre showcase of yodeling. Kristen turned Cowboy Sweetheart into a commercial for Riccola cough drops. Sure it was entertaining but it left me craving a drink. It’s only half past twelve but I don’t care. It’s five o’clock somewhere.
Phil thinks she was wacky but she pulled it off. Anastasia wasn’t so nice. She (Kristen) gets one chance to make an impression and thought it was a horrible choice. Big and Rich thought it was fun.
Matt Mason trucked down the road from Fairland, Indiana; a place I know very well. It’s where I drank my first beer. It’s where I found Jesus. Where I wrecked my first car, I tore it all to pieces. Matt wanted to be two things when he grew up: a truck driver and a musician. He eventually moved to Nashville where nobody can stop him from making his dreams come true.
Matt turns in a steady performance of Burn Me Down. It wasn’t anything to get weak in the knees over, but I liked the original country in his voice.
Big wonders how much Dwight Yoakam he added into his dancing and would like to see some Mick Jagger moves as well. Anastasia loved the song and it made her hot, hot, hot. Now there’s something unusual. Phil crowned Matt his favorite of the finalists.
Rounding the ten finalists is Jewels Hanson. Jewels is the rowdy gal of the bunch. She was raised not to take any “shiznet” from anyone. After working the nine to five grind, Jewels realized she wasn’t cut out for that. It’s about singing, rocking and having fun for this gal.
Jewels pulls out no stops while performing Gone by Montgomery Gentry. She’s all over the stage, long hair flowing and rocking the stage.
Unfortunately, the reviews weren’t as rocking as her performance. Anastasia can’t even comment because her ears were bleeding. Big and Rich were not impressed. While Rich thought it was rocking, he didn’t totally believe it. Phil tried to worm his way out of slamming her by saying how great everyone was through the night. This doesn’t look good for Jewels.
Better Find A Harley and Motor On Outta Here
After some words of encouragement by Wynonna, we’re spared no time in the announcement of who was the first finalist to be eliminated. Tonight it is Jewels Hanson.
When asked as to why Jewels was the first to go, Big said “Don‘t get me wrong, yeah I think you‘re alright. But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night. That don’t impress me much.” Personally, I think it was a cop out. She rocked no worse than Shy and made it through her song without having to resort to a gimmick such as yodeling.
Come back next week for another week of country hits. Until then, stay gold, stay groovy and keep the Skoal planted firmly between your cheek and gum.
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