Country music has been described as the white man’s blues and what went down at the Acuff Theater Thursday night might best be described with a passing reference to Billie Holiday.
While critics still debate the veracity of the biographical book and movie that chronicled the troubled life of the jazz singing great, there is absolutely no debate that Angela Hacker can sing the blues making you feel and believe she has lived every note of heartache in her songs. Angela added another great song selection to her Nashville Star repertoire when she sang - no owned - the Bonnie Raitt classic “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
Angela Hacker is a Music Row Exec’s worst nightmare because she actually is country as country comes. She’s lived it, loved it and soaked it all in from the dammed old waters of the Tennessee River that flow near the famed North Alabama town of Muscle Shoals that Angela calls home. Cold chills must be running up and down the spines of the Warner Honchos that reside at 20 Music Square East when they view Angela’s country resume.
She’s been described by some as an Alabama Redneck with a self-proclaimed common law husband. She is a woman that is pushing 30 who is not a wafer thin bare belly that the keepers of country music want to force upon country music fans. Angela is not a young, bouncy, pop-singing sorority girl; she is a woman that once worked in a meat packing plant. But Angela does live and breathe music and has the rare ability to make listeners live it with her. Angela started as the dark horse in this competition who Nashville Star “Commentator” Anastasia Brown described as underdressed to go to Wal-Mart. It now appears Angela Hacker is the Lady of the House of Acuff and the one to beat.
In stark contrast, the same cannot be said for the Music Row favorite, Whitney Duncan. Whitney had a really bad night when she attempted to sing, “The First Cut is the Deepest.” It was almost painful to listen to her repeatedly try to hit the pitch and fail. Her performance reminded me of a bad Karaoke singer. In the music business it has been said that an artist is only as good as their last single and the same applies to Nashville Star with song selection and performance. In one night Whitney went from a possible contender to a position on the bubble and the most likely contestant to go home next week.
Meg Allison received yet another stay of execution from the voters at home this week, mostly due to Kacey Musgraves’ poor song selection, weak performance and sassy attitude last week. While Kacey was sent home, Meg survived to sing another day and she chose the Alabama song “Take Me Down” since Randy Owen did not recognize what she sang last week. Randy was very emotional and moved by the song, but not because of Meg’s performance, it was because one of the songwriters, Mark Gray, is in failing health.
Meg is a great singer with a smile and dimples the camera dearly loves, but she does not fit into mainstream country. She is on the fringe of country at best and when she sings a country song, she stylizes it so much it is almost unrecognizable to the average country music fan.
What Meg does, she does very well, but country she is not. She does appear to grow and blossom each week with every opportunity she is given, though. Don’t be surprised if she ends up in the Final Four and on the Nashville Star Tour since Meg most likely is the beneficiary once again from another contestant’s misstep.
David St. Romain appeared to be the front-runner in the competition, but lost ground to Angela with his song selection of “Life Is A Highway” which he sang more like Tom Cochrane and less like Rascal Flatts. David is a professional entertainer who is more of a rocker and he performed the song well, but it just wasn’t a song that resonates with Nashville Star viewers. He’s safe for now, but he needs to find a country song that will blow the fans away.
Zac Hacker, Angela’s brother, is hot on the heels of David and Angela turning in another great, bluesy performance with the T. Graham Brown song “Memphis Women and Chicken.” Zac loves what he does and people love to watch him loving it, but like David and Meg, he needs to pick a country song the viewers can sink their teeth into if he wants to win the truck and the record deal.
Josh Stevens did an OK job singing the Vince Gill song “I Still Believe In You” and has a good voice, but does not have the chops to really nail the songs he has selected so far. Maybe it’s because when it comes to pure vocals, Jayron Weaver from Season Three is a tough act to follow. He needs to select songs that are not such a reach for him if he wants to make the Final Four.
There’s just a little twist for next week’s show because the judges get to pick the songs the contestants will sing. Selecting songs for Josh, Angela, Meg and Whitney should be pretty easy, but the real test will be choosing good songs for David and Zac. I believe the real talent will be evidenced by who will step up to the plate and hit a home run with the song they have been given. It should be very interesting.
Well, that’s my view from the cheap seats. I’m sure I will hear from those of you that have a different perspective, so be like the Dixie Chicks and “Let ‘Er Rip.”
Article Written & Submitted by Bo Johnson