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Who has the talent to make it in the world of country music? Find out as the nation selects the next Nashville Star!

Is your favorite still in the running? Check out our Nashville Star Stage!

Recaps by Gordon Pepper, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host: Leann Rimes
Judges: Anastasia Brown, Bret Michaels, Phil Vassar
Creator/EP: Ben Silverman
Packager: Hoosick Falls Productions, PictureVision, Reveille Productions for USA Network
Airs: Tuesdays at 10pm ET on USA


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"Round of 10" - March 1

We are back - almost a year later, to see the latest musicians compete for the title of Nashville Star 2005! Who will succeed in the footsteps of previous winners Buddy Jewell and Brad Cotter?

Leann Rimes, who graced us with a performance in last season's finale, starts us off be performing herself. Not too shabby.

And with that, we get to the credits and the intro. Leann talks about the new changes - she being one of them, as she replaces Nancy O'Dell. She talks about some of the surprises and the new judges. Judge #1 - 2 time country songwriter of the year Phil Vassar. Judge #2 - Performer Anastasia Brown, and Judge #3 - Bret Michaels??!?!? Yes that Bret Michaels - the one from Poison. WHA? I guess either...

A. He did start in the country environment
B. He wanted more reality show experience after Todd TV, and
C. The producers REALLY wanted to get that age demographic down, didn't they?

Also new this year - we get a backstage correspondent. That person is... Cletus T. Judd! Did we mention that the producers REALLY wanted to get that age demographic down yet?

Leann goes back and tells the audience that they have gone through the auditions and the tapes, and they have narrowed their search to 10 people - 5 guys and 5 girls. This is another change from last season, where they started with 20 and quickly cut it to 11. Since we only have 10, let's meet them...

Justin David (31 years old, Archville, Missouri) - He looks like Brad Cotter - if he was 15 years younger, had dark hair and was scruffy.

Jenny Farrell (35, Albuquerque, New Mexico) - Jenny has long brown hair and seems full of energy, pointing to the audience.

Jason Meadows (33, La Playa, Oklahoma) - Jason is also full of energy, as he, donning a decent-sized cowboy hat, does a little 360 for trot around the stage.

Christy McDonald (30, Cypress City, North Carolina) - She has frizzy blonde hair (sort of like Dyan Cannon) and blows her family a kiss.

Jayron Weaver (22, Dallas, Georgia) - He looks like a big boy, as he comes out wearing a stretched out leather jacket and a black button down shirt.

Erika Jo Heriges (18, Mount Joliet, TN) - Oh look, we have our own light brown-haired version of Mikalah Gordon.

Tamika Tyler (33 - Middleton, Colorado) - This brown haired woman comes out jogging to the crowd and waving her hands. She looks athletic and looked like for a minute that she was going to do a headstand.

Josh Owen (18 - Brounsborough, Texas) - Josh (also brown-haired - and shoulder length wavy hair at that) pumps his arms like he scores the go-ahead touchdown.

Casey Simpson (Sirius, California) - Casey comes out and gives us an old-fashioned wave. I seriously hope that the long blonde haired Simpson doesn't have the musical traits of Jessica or Ashlee.

Jody Evans (Arkadelphia, Arkansas) - Jody looks like a cross between a young Elvis Costello and a young David Byrne.

One thing to make a note of here - Buddy Jewell and Brad Cotter were well above the age of the oldest competitor here - 35. This definitely reeks of adding youth to the show, and I can just imagine the frustration of all of the 40-somethings witnessing yet another venue that they can no longer showcase their talents on.

Leann tells the group that she is nervous - then tells the audience that their voting is the only thing that determines who stays and who goes. The winner gets a recording contract from Universal South Records and a concert at the Grand Ole Opry.

We start off the night with Casey, who is called the 'ghetto cowgirl' because there isn't much country music in California. She sings "I Wanna Love Somebody Like You" and it's perky, though it's hard to hear her above the band. She says that she has extra nerves because she is starting, but Anastasia thought she nailed it. Phil thought she did great and loves her  choker, while Bret thinks that she has what it takes to win. A strong start so far for Casey.

Jody Evans is a law officer and his parents took him to see a lot of country music when he was young, and he plays the guitar while singing "3 Nickels and a Dime". He's very dynamic on stage as he finishes it with him swinging his guitar, but I don't like his voice and he wasn't on pitch. Phil, who says that Jody looks like his agent (heh), liked his style. Anastasia called him 'rocking' while Bret says that he has the energy and the attitude, adding that there could be 10 great people up there and it could be very tough to cut anyone.

Tamika Tyler is originally from Australia but came to Colorado 5 years ago. She has a deep desire for her music as she sings "You Don't Even Know Who I Am", and accompanies herself with a guitar of her own. She had a shaky start, but she got back into her own, although she sounded subdued. Anastasia says to improve the outfit (wha?) while Bret loves her voice and Phil loves the dress.

Josh Owen is a self-described guitar-slinger, who says that he's been doing it since he's been 2. His voice sounds very mature for his age and he does a cool guitar solo as he plays, as he tries to make himself a double threat. He tells his story to childhood prodigy Leann, who comes back by saying "You're Telling Me." The judges like him, but they want to see more of him and see him connect more with the audience.

Christy McDonald gets to go next and says that what you see is what you get. She has a nice powerful voice that is pitchy when she hits the high notes, but she really gets into her song and sings it well. She says that she used to have stage fright, but decided to let it out. Anastasia loves that she is lost in the music, while Anastasia takes over the microphone duties and asks Bret what he thinks. He says that she makes him want to party. Well, enough said, as she shows enough moxy to give Mikalah Gordon a run for her money.

As we get to the halfway mark, we go backstage for our first report from Cletus T. Judd. Cletus says that as everyone is staying at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, she asks the 18 year old Erika Jo how the bar is. She replies that she is not old enough to drink, but he says that the hotel is sweet anyways. Now what was the point of that segment?

Jason Meadows' point is to be the next Nashville Star as he and his guitar get into "Working Man Blues". He really got into it, and the charisma and choreography is going to make him a tough man to beat. He praises his fan club, his son and his wife (AwwwwBarf) as the judges say that he did a great job. Anastasia tells him to soften his delivery, but Bret says that he has the 'It' factor, and I have to agree with him.

Erika Jo isn't a party girl, and would rather hang out with her folks. Her friends were shocked that she could sing, and I am shocked with her mature voice as she sings "Break Down You". That gets her a standing ovation and the youngest singer in the group may be one of the tough ones to beat. She admits that she was doing her homework backstage, and despite Anastasia wanting her to lose herself more in the music, the judges think that she did her homework onstage and think she is going to be a star.

This is a big time in Jenny Farrell's life, as she is there to give it her all. She gives it as long as she can... 40 seconds worth... and then apologizes to the audience and runs off the stage clutching her stomach. Leann says that she may have gotten a little food poisoning as well as nerves, and says that at least she tried. Well, she did, and she gets kudos, but either 1. Leann is much better covering people and Jenny is going to get cut or 2. She really did get sick, but without an actual performance for the audience, she's probably going to get eliminated anyway.

Jayron Weaver will hopefully stick around long enough to give a full performance, and as a minister, he is used to giving these performances. He sings stoic and performs like a minister, and he sounds ok, but lack of emotion and movement that his other competitors have shown could cost him down the road. Anastasia and Bret agree with me that he has to own more of the stage, and that could spell trouble.

The final performer of the evening is Justin David, who has been singing with his father and grandfather for the past 26 years. He wants to share his gift with America, and as he gets into "Ring of Fire", I think he's ok, but he doesn't bring it like his other competitors (though he did play a cool banjo-ukulele thing). Anastasia loves his song selection and Bret, noting the itty-bitty guitar, asked if he found it where Jenny got sick. OUCH!

We get a recap of all of the singers (and the numbers to call if you want to vote for them). We then get the singers on stage (including the returning Jenny) as Leann wishes all a fond good night.

My take? Well, they got younger, but the talent is still there. I am still wondering what Cletus is doing on the show, but as this is the first episode and they will undoubtedly need filler material later, he gets a pass for now. You have 6 very strong people in the group, and I even think that the other four could do well if they stepped it up next week. Unfortunately, one of them is not going to be around to step it up, and I think that it's going to be Jenny...but if the audience is a sympathetic one and votes her in, I think the stiff Jayron, the out-of-pitch Jody or the generic Justin could have problems.

Well, we can't have a contest without a ratings list, so here's mine -

Jason
Erika
Christy
Casey
Tamika
Josh
Justin
Jayron
Jody
Jenny

Keep in mind that unlike American Idol, I have been miserable at picking who wins and loses Nashville Star. Next week - we say goodbye to our first country crooner. Join us in 7 days to see who that is.

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