With the competition in full swing, the new USA series, Real Country, aired a second episode of the reality competition show. Again, a contestant was chosen by each panelist — Shania Twain, Jake Owen, and Travis Tritt—took the Nashville stage to compete for $10,000, a performance slot at Stagecoach Music Festival in 2019, and a bid for the finale.
It seemed appropriate that Trace Adkins would appear as this evening’s special guest panelists since the theme of the night was songs that celebrate the American spirit. Trace frequently visits and performs for the U.S. troops and is a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project.
The evening’s performances began with Shania’s pick for the night. Billie Jo, a 27-year-old mother of four from Emory, Texas kicked things off with a sparkling performance of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”
Shania was the first panelist to comment on Billie Jo, and she took the opportunity to address a hot-button issue in country music. “We miss female voices in this industry,” she said. “Our ratio of female voices on the radio is almost nil. And only a woman could sing that song. I grew up in a violent home. I related so much to that song when it came out. I’d just love to see more women stand up, sing about the controversies, you’re the right person to do it.”
Jake could hardly wait to share his thoughts on Billie Jo. He told the petite beauty, “I really relate to you because I’m a single parent and being a musician on the road as a single parent is a hard thing,” he told her. “You did a great job. We’re here to find great singers, great talent, I think that’s exactly what you are.”
On a scale of one to five stars, Billy Jo earned 3.8 stars.
Next up was Travis’ pick of Tony Jackson from Richmond, Virginia. The Marine Corp. veteran and father of three tipped his hat to Travis with a gutsy performance of the country legend’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.”
Before the voting began, Shania told Tony, “Now Travis, when he sings that song, he’s got a twang. He’s got the southern twang and it’s natural. And I think what’s really cool is that you don’t have that twang, and you don’t have to have twang to sing country music. I don’t have twang.”
With the votes tabulated, Tony scored 3.7 stars.
The final contestant of the night was Jake’s pick, singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Larry Fleet, from White Bluff, Tennessee. Before he performed, Jake told the story of discovering Larry. “We have a mutual friend, it was his 40th birthday party, and as I’m walking into this barn, I hear the voice of this guy,” he explained. “And I’m thinking it was a radio playing or something, and I see him in the corner playing, and the people are just staring at him. So, I walked over to him, introduced myself and said, ‘You don’t know me, but the world needs to hear you.”
After singing a stirring rendition of Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck,” Larry admitted that Jake talked him into quitting his job and then took him on the road to play a couple of shows. Shania then told Larry, “I can completely understand why Jake invited you here. You’re breathing and living every word. You’re a wonderful singer and I am glad you quit your day job.”
Larry was given 4.5 stars by the audience, the highest score of the night, and sending him and Billie Jo to the final round.
As the two aspiring country stars prepared for the final round, country superstar Trace joined the panel to cast his vote for the winner.
Billie Jo was up first singing Jo Dee Messina’s “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” Obviously impressed, Trace told the young lady, “If my first opportunity in this business would have been on a stage in front of a national audience, I would have soiled myself, probably. So, I would have told you to go out and savor every second of it and enjoy it like it’s the last performance that you’ll ever give. And I think I saw that.”
Shania then made a final bid for Billie Jo. “I’m very passionate about what’s going on in country music right now,” she began. “If you’re going to break into country music and get on the radio, there’s 10 guys in front of you and you’re going to have to have bigger balls than they have.”
Before scores were announced, Larry took his turn in the spotlight with a unique, bluesy version of “Workin’ Man Blues” by Merle Haggard, and Trace was digging it, but he figured someone else would have liked it, too. “I think Haggard would have smiled,” he said, grinning. “There aren’t any accolades that I could give you that are going to mean any more than that. I think Haggard would have smiled.” Shania added, “I think you can easily say from now on that the best advice you ever got was to quit your job.”
With voting closed and the scores locked in, Billie Jo earned 3.4 stars and Larry scored 4.3 stars.
Congratulations Larry Fleet, the newest Real Country winner.
Real Country returns next week with two more nights of competition.