Idol Goes Opry and Survives (almost)

Grand Ole Opry week, night one, took American Idol by storm as the eleven contestants performed songs made famous by Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Johnny Cash, Dolly, Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline. “The odds were 100,000 to one at the beginning of this contest,” said host Ryan Seacrest at the top of the show. “Now there’s just eleven standing on the stage. But anything can happen, it’s American Idol.”

Megan Joy (Photo: American Idol)

Megan Joy (Photo: American Idol)

Randy Travis, who has sold over 25 million records, was chosen as mentor for the Idol hopefuls and handled the night smoothly. Unlike Simon’s harsh tongue, Travis had a hopeful word for everyone, and some sage advice about tapping into their country-side. (Lest we forget, in the mid-eighties, Travis’ baritone almost single-handledly reignited the country format.)

The show’s most controversial interpretation was Adam Lambert’s version of “Ring of Fire.” Simon called it, “Indulgent rubbish,” but Randy lauded its originality saying, “It’s good, it’s hot.” Lambert, wearing leather gloves that left his black polished fingernails exposed, laced the track with a middle Eastern flair complete with sitar sounds and some scales not usually sung in Western music. The Grand Ole Opry crowd might boo were this young man on the Ryman stage, but national TV is another matter.

Adam Lambert (Photo: American Idol)

Adam Lambert (Photo: American Idol)

It will be interesting to see if it sells downloads (available in iTunes), and how the fans vote later this week.

Another highlight was Lil Rounds who channeled Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Rounds’ R&B roots barely stayed hidden under the surface, but in the hands of an honest teller this song gem, written by the incredible Gretchen Peters, could embrace any style and still brim with emotion. And Rounds did not disappoint in that respect.
If you haven’t been tuning in to season eight, rest assured that the bickering between Simon and Paula has matured into a love-hate spat that continues unabated and occasionally looks like it might come to blows. “Respect me,” said Paula at one point when Simon completely dissed what she had just said.”  “Well you should respect the performers,” Simon countered…. and so it went. At one point the camera zoomed in and Paula appeared to be smelling Simon’s forearm while he held it passively in front of her nose [don’t ask me to explain that!] Randy Jackson chimed in with quips like, “That was a tender moment from my Dawg Kris [Allen].”

Each season needs at least one all-American blonde and Megan Joy does an admirable job filling out the top 11 in that respect. Fortunately, she can also sing—with guts. Undaunted by a fight with the flu she bravely took the stage to sing “Walking After Midnight.” Her low cut halter gown showed off her natural attributes as well as the four color tattoo which completely covers her right arm from shoulder to elbow.

Tomorrow brings Travis and Idol alum Carrie Underwood to the stage to duet “I Told You So.” Brad Paisley, hot off the close of his sold out tour and only days away from the birth of his second child is scheduled to debut his new single, “Then.”   Tune in tonight (3/18) for Idol part two…

For a look at the hottest Idol handicap predictions site try


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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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