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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 9" - March 8

We start the show with a performance. It's not a performance by the competitors, though - it's a performance from Montgomery Gentry, who sings 'Gone'. That gives us all time to collect some munchies and a drink while we watch the opening credits.

It also gives us time to see the 10 finalists. The Montgomery song is fitting, because by the end of the hour, one of these ten people will be 'Gone'. Who will it be?

In the first season, they had all of the singers croon one by one until the person who didn't sing gets eliminated. Last season, they improved the format and announced the person who was leaving at the beginning of the show. This season, they...go back to the crappy 'Fame' style and will only announce people who are singing - and them expect them to sing right afterwards. Will someone please remind the producer that you will not get good performances from people by scaring them half to death 5 minutes before they are supposed to go on, please?

We get reintroduced to Phil Vassar, Anastasia Brown and Bret Michaels (who says that none of their finalists suck - but have to now be mean and down and dirty) and then a hello to Cletus T. Judd (who has decided to bring the Nashville Star Mop and Bucket in case we have a Jenny Farrell incident again) before Leann announces the first singer to make last week's cut...

Jody Evans! Jody talks about how the police department donated leave days to him so he could be on the show without losing his job and sings 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'. Jody still sounds affected, but his performance is much better than last week's. Leann is asking how she can get out of a speeding ticket, and Jody says to start singing. Heh. Bret tells him that although he likes Jody's energy to stop imitating Elvis and Buddy and to do something else. Anastasia tells him to dig deep and Phil says that he likes him. Way to contribute, Phil - but I agree with Bret and Anastasia.

Next up...Tamika Tyler, who says that she has played the bars and she wants the contract. She also is vastly improved from last week, as she sings out 'I'm Feeling Alright'. She seems much more comfortable and it comes out in her performance. Phil loved the song choice and is one of his favorites, Anastasia thinks that she is the strongest singer in the group, but Bret wants her to ring it all to the table. I thought she brought a lot to it this week, but we will see next week.

Cletus asks the performers if Jenny should have been able to perform again. Jason says that she should have sang again - as does Jody as Cletus notes that they are all politically correct. Well, as image does play a role in this, if someone was dumb enough to say no (especially if Jenny somehow manages to survive the vote), they would probably find themselves on the next bus out of the show.

Someone who won't be taking the next but out will be...Justin David! He got a ton of e-mail from women, including someone who wants to be his microphone. Wha? He brings his mandolin/guitar back for his song, which unfortunately for me showcases more of his mandolin that his muddled vocals. He sounded ok, and the audience ate him up. Anastasia said that last week, her toes curled, but this week with his pitch problems, her ears bled. OUCH! Phil thought it was good while Bret calls him cool. A lukewarm reception from the judges spells trouble.

The next singer up is...Erika Jo! Erika says that her country singing persona is different and wilder than her usual personality. She rocks the crowd and walks into the audience for 'I'm Here for the Party'. It's not the strongest song vocally that I've heard, but her energy and performance more than makes up for it and she is an audience-pleaser. Bret says that Erika brought the party - and there's a party on his bus after the show. Anastasia loved her performance - but wants her to live the song. Phil is also here to party and we've found Nashville's Paula Abdul. Well, they both start with P, don't they?

The singer at the halfway mark will be...Casey Simpson, who flails like a rag doll. She says that she goofs around off stage, but on stage, she's all business. She sings 'I'll do whatever it Takes'. Well, what she needed to do was to have much more spark than what she gave us, and it really feels like a noticeable let down after the past high-energy performance from Erika Joe. Anastasia sees a pretty singer, but she wants to see an artist. Phil tells her to not be nervous while Bret says that she's hot. Not much overwhelming praise from the judges here, either...

The next person off of the hot seat is Jason Meadows (he of the big country hat). He hasn't been away with his wife for more than 5 days, so it feels weird. He sings 'I'm from the Country and I like it that way.' He has that George Canyon vibe to him, and although I thought Canyon did it much better last season, he should have more than enough of those sort of followers to stick around for a while. Bret calls him George Strait on speed, Anastasia is glad that the Howard Dean holler is gone - but she wants a love song next week, while Phil makes fun of his clothes. Where did they get Phil from?

Cletus asks Christy if it is fair if she gets booted this week instead of Jenny, who only completed 2 lines. She says that it's up to America - but she hopes that America will like her well enough to keep her. Jenny is asked if she thinks that it would be a sympathy vote if she gets in. She says that she doesn't care - as long as she is able to stick around. Once again, everyone is saying the right things.

We are down to four singers. The next singer to perform will be...Jayron Weaver! He says that the experience takes him away from church and what he's used to, but he thinks that he has had a strong foundation, adding that people are praying for him. I was praying that he will be less stilted this week - and fortunately he is, as he brings a guitar with him and sings 'G-d Bless the Broken Road that led me Straight to You'. Its certainly better than last week, though I still want to see more of a spark. Phil likes the voice in that body, Anastasia says 'Halelujiah!', but she wants to see him connect, while Bret wants to see him bring it out.

We are down to singer #8, who is...Christy McDonald! She talks about having big hair and how she could be a diva. When I hear her singing 'Would It Be Me', she reminds me of a female Bette Midler. She also has two things that unfortunately Bette has as well - she was pitchy holding the high notes and she is on the verge of maybe being too talkative. Christy says that you have to be who you are, but as Mikala can tell you, that could be a problem. Anastasia tells her to find a better song, Phil says that she could be good on a sitcom, and Bret says to screw the other judges, she rocks. She may rock, but that was a clear step backwards from last week.

We are down to 2 people. Will the bathroom challenged Jenny be eliminated? Or will Josh, who was just OK, be the first person to go? Leann announces that the person with the least amount of votes is...Josh Owen. The last person to sing will be...Jenny Farrell. Josh says that the song selection last week may have done him in, but he will keep on keeping on. With that, we hear Jenny, who had the stomach flu, is looking for redemption. She sings 'You can't take the Honky Tonk out of the Girl', and for a true first performance, she was pretty good. Jenny gets the standing ovation, adding that her performance this time was a lot longer. Heh. Anastasia calls her bangin', while Phil is glad that America gave her the benefit of the doubt. Bret said that Josh kicked a$$ on the guitar, adding that none of the performers sucked. I agree with Bret - they are all talented people who should be there.

We get the final look at all 9 performers. We also get the teaser that Charlie Daniels will sing the opening number next week as we are done. And with that , the ratings are done too -

Tamika
Erika
Jason
Jenny
Jody
Jayron
Casey
Christy
Justin

I think that there were three levels of performances this week. Tamika, Erika and Jason were clearly top-tiered, while Jenny Jody and Jayron, though they weren't as good as the top 3, were still solid. Casey, Christy and Justin all had something fundamentally flawed with their singing this week and I think are all in danger of leaving.

More thoughts - I am happy that the Hot Spot is no longer in play. I also thought that Cletus was vastly better this week than last week. Finally, I think that Bret is not as bad of a judge as I thought, while I think that Anastasia is truly the one who is the most on with the evaluations. As for Phil - how did he get that gig and how can I apply for it?

Next week - Charlie Daniels sings, but someone else doesn't. Join us in 7 days when we find out who that person is.

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