Three weeks into the new reality competition series, Real Country, and panelists Travis Tritt, Jake Owen, and Shania Twain have found their groove. For the three contestants that face off each week, though, it’s still a nerve-wracking experience.
This week, those contestants were challenged with performing two songs that fit the theme “living country.” And while the in-studio audience were the only votes in the first round’s performances, rising country artist Devin Dawson appeared as a special guest panelist.
Before the music began, though, Travis defined living country saying, “To me, living country is that enjoys going to a bonfire more than they do the ballet.”
First up was Jake’s pick, Nashville singer, songwriter Jaida Dreyer. “I’ve been waiting for this show because I love Jaida Dreyer,” Jake told the audience. “She’s written thousands of songs. She’s had songs recorded by Tim McGraw, Eric Church, Luke Bryan. And I am always so humbled when I get to go in a room with someone that is that amazing of a talent.”
Performing the Bobby Gentry hit made famous by Reba McEntire, “Fancy,” the raven-haired beauty commanded the stage like a champ. After her song, Jake said, “Jaida is representing not only what we’re missing right now in country music, but you’re representing every songwriter in this town that.” He went on to explain, “I’m a songwriter but some of my biggest hits have been written by songwriters for me, and it’s made my career. You need to be the one on the radio that everybody gets to hear. You will represent women of country music so beautifully.”
With the votes added up, Jaida received 4.2 stars.
Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Dave Kennedy was next up for Travis. The country music legend explained why he picked the devoted family man. “You made a statement very early on, when I first heard you, that just rang so true with me,” he said. “You said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with pop country or spreading things out a little bit and going a little bit this way or a little bit that way, but a real country song should hurt a little bit.’ Dude, that is a true statement.”
With his wife in the audience supporting him, Dave sang Little Feat’s “Willin’.” After the performance, Travis told the artist, “You’re honesty, your voice is so pure, it just cuts through. It’s one of those voices that I could hear on the radio and I would know within about three notes exactly who that is singing.”
After the audience votes were tallied, Dave scored 4.1 stars.
Finally, Shania’s pick of The Davisson Brothers Band, an actual family band, from Harrison County, West Virginia. Twain told the audience, “These guys are already famous in Australia. They have hit music over there. Somebody has to put you on a platform where your own country can appreciate you, so here you are.”
The foursome gave a gritty, foot-stomping performance of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried. As they caught their breath, Shania went on to say, “This is what I want to see on a Friday night. I want to get up out of my seat and have a good time.”
The fans spoke and the Davisson Brothers Band earned 3.4 stars, eliminating them from the final round of competition.
With “All On Me” singer, Devin Dawson joining the panel, Jaida returned to the stage. Resurrecting the Hank Snow classic from the 1960s, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Jaida showed off her great twang along with incredible breath control with the wordy tune, bringing Jake to his feet.
“This show is called ‘Real Country’ and that’s exactly what that is right there,” he declared. “It’s your style, your authenticity that shines through. I’m so excited for everybody here to see more of what you’re about to do.”
When Dave stepped back up, he was decked out in a classic Nudie suit, but barefoot. Dedicating his performance to his mother, he gave a rousing rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.”
Afterward, Travis told the humble singer, “That performance was so good. Not only does it pay homage to one of our country music legends, Mr. Merle Haggard, who we all love, you made it your own. You curled those notes and you blues them up. It sets my soul on fire.”
After the scores were tabulated, Dave earned 4.2 stars and Jaida earned 4.7 stars. And although the panel predicted great things ahead for both of the artists, it was Jaida that won $10,000, a spot in the finale, and a gig at Stagecoach Music Festival.