On tonight’s Nashville Star, the contestants get surprise visits from their families during their mentoring sessions with Jeffrey Steele, John Rich and Jewel. And gladly, no group number. Hooray! Unless I missed it in the first minute of the show…but either way, hooray! In it’s place, the singers get to do two numbers. That’s one extra chance for them to fall on their faces..er…I mean wow us.
1. Ashlee Hewitt
Song 1: "Don’t Stop Believing" by Journey
She starts out playing the piano as John suggests, moving to pick up her guitar shortly after. She sounds like she gained more control over her vocals, much less with the shaky kitten voice. I think she has a lot of potential. Jewel’s only problem is that she’s still a little awkward on stage. I agree, shockingly, with what John said – that she has to start out strong and finish strong as opposed to just the latter.
Song 2: "Help Me Make It Through The Night" by Kris Kristofferson
She sounded really good on this one, even though it was extremely short. Like, 30-seconds long. John says she sounds like a modern-day Tammy Wynette.
Song 1: "Hey Good Lookin’" by Hank Williams
Jewel was really working with him to make sure he does more singing and less "entertaining." Bless her heart, it makes a huge difference. He doesn’t seem to be trying so bloody hard which actually makes him have more personality to me. John thinks he’s faking and isn’t a Country singer. I don’t agree or disagree. I feel like Coffey, and pretty much everyone on the show except Gabe, is a mixture of the two. Also, I don’t think someone who has a "rapper" guesting on most of his Country songs is really in a place to judge.
Song 2: "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver
His voice was a little more shaky this time, probably because he was ticked off at John.
3. Tommy Stanley
Song 1: "God Bless The Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts
He definitely sounds much more "Country" on this song than he did last week. Jewel (and his dad) were really working with him on it. His voice cracked a bit towards the end – perhaps because of emotion. I kind of feel like he was trying to be what they want him to be rather than himself, which never works out well for a contestant. John gives him the same kind of critique as Coffey, though in a slightly less rude way. Jeffrey complimented Tommy on singing through the bad notes. Jewel’s only concern was that he lacked the swagger he normal has. Perhaps it’s because everyone seems to be trying to break his spirit?
Song 2: "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John
Before he sings his second song, he gets surprised by three of his friends from the U.S.S. Kittyhawk who deliver well wishes from themselves and everyone back on the ship. The Bluegrass vibe to the song actually works, surprisingly. I like Tommy, but I feel like the show is trying to suppress who he really is. Jewel says this song felt more Country than the Rascal Flatts cover. That’s probably because he was arranging and singing it as himself as opposed to being "Joe Country" on it.
4. Pearl Heart
Song 1: "I’ll Still Be Loving You" by Reba McIntyre or Restless Heart
The last half was a lot better than the first half. I feel like they couldn’t quite control the emotions connected to the song (both their own and the ones Jeffrey sort of heaped on them) and it made them miss some notes. But vast improvement on the stage presence. The judges were generally pleased with the performance.
Song 2: "One Way Ticket" by LeAnn Rimes
The harmonies were much better this time around, though still a smidge shaky at the end. They’re coming along though. Jeffrey tells them that he "can’t have 100 percent from three girls, [he] needs three girls giving 100 percent."
5. Melissa Lawson
Song 1: "This One’s For The Girls" by Martina McBride
So somebody was listening last week when I said she should be singing some Martina. And she’s playing guitar. Bonus talent. She sounded good, as always, and seemed to have an extra pep in her step. That family visit did her good. The ovation from the crowd was really long and rightly long. Nothing but happy thoughts from the judges with John adding that if the show ended tonight, she’d be the "undisputed winner." Strangely, something else I agree with John about. P.S. Her kids are adorable.
Song 2: "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac
The only downside to this song is that it wasn’t long enough. I really do like her.
6. Shawn Mayer
Song 1: "Breathe" by Faith Hill
She’s trying to go the "girly girl" route versus the "tough girl" she’s been the majority of the time. Shawn didn’t over sing even though she really could have. She still sounded a little nervous but all in all it was good. I mean, it was no Faith, but it was good. The judges were overall pleased though they know she’s maybe not the strongest contender to win (Jewel didn’t say that, the guys did).
Song 2: "Forever & Ever Amen" by Randy Travis
John laid into her for proving his point that she’s not consistent and that her nerves get the best of her. I don’t think it was awful but it wasn’t fantastic. I think she has the same problem as most of the other contestants – they’re square pegs being shoved into round holes on occasion.
Before our last few contestants, Blake Shelton comes on to sing "Home." I like Blake a lot. He’s a good singer and, more importantly, amuses me. It really ruins it when talented people are jerks. Oh, and look. Choir-type backup from the contestants who are sitting with their families.
7. Gabe Garcia
Song 1: "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi
I thought it was one of his better performance. He showed a lot more control over the quality of his vocals and he was better working the stage. At the beginning I think he was trying a little to hard but good overall. The judges thought it was good though he needs to be a little more natural on stage. Jewel and John add that he’s the best male vocalist on the show right now.
Song 2: "The Fireman" by George Strait
It was smart to go with a more traditional song for his second number. And I always liked this song. Good job.
Down to the Bottom Two, the survivor gets to sing their second song. So I guess there can only be so much dead air before the results are read. Hopefully. Meh.
The Bottom Two
1. Alyson Gilbert
Song 1: "She’s In Love With The Boy" by Trisha Yearwood
It started off pretty promising, but she’s missing quite a few notes here and there. She was a little flat on occasion. The judges pretty much all agreed that she’s much more capable than how she tends to perform. Smatterings of disappointment all around.
2. Laura & Sophie
Song 1: "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves
Huh…one of the girls kind of plays guitar. Interesting. It was a very Rock version of the song, which I dug, though the girls were enunciating a little too much. Like, it was entirely too proper on the whole. The stage presence was much better than last week and the harmonies were mostly there. Mixed bag from the judges. The most interesting thing was that John was rudely protective of them, stating they’re a few years away from being superstars but entirely too sweet to be in the business right now.
After some unnecessary recapping, dramatic lighting and music, and much too much dead air from Billy Ray, Alyson is sent home. We get the Goodbye Reel of Potential and Ultimately Sadness before John gives her some surprisingly positive parting words.
Laura & Sophie perform "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson as their second song. Some major crackage at the beginning and it ended slightly shaky…that’s rough to have to sing after narrowly being booted. They’re probably the next to go. Or maybe Coffey.
Should Alyson have gone home? Which were your favorite performances? And, if John and Jeffrey are so concerned about "authentic Country singers" being on the show, um, why did they pick so many singers with "Soul" type voices to begin with? Do you think it’s kind of weird that Jeffrey always seems to pick the songs for his mentorees? Any other thoughts/comments/questions?