Real Country is here and the theme of the season premiere is “Drink Up and Party Down!” Our esteemed panel consists of Shania Twain, Jake Owen, and Travis Tritt, and each of them has handpicked an artist they believe represents the future of country music. Tonight’s episode pays tribute to country music’s long-held love affair with drinking songs. Says Tritt: “I tell my audiences all the time. The more you drink, the better I sound.”
How it works: three bands perform in Round One. The two bands with the highest audience score advance to Round Two. The winner of Round Two takes home $10,000, earns a spot at Stagecoach 2019, and moves on to the Real Country finale, where they will perform for a chance to win $100,000 and a show at the Grand Ole Opry.
Shania’s pick: The Young Fables
Shania invited The Young Fables, a band from Maryville, TN that showcases the musical chemistry of real-life couple Laurel Wright and Wesley Lunford. They kick off the evening with a rendition of Emmylou Harris’s upbeat “Two More Bottles of Wine” that takes Travis Tritt back to the days of the great Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Shania calls the performance “pure soul” and tells Wright and Lunford that she can “really sense the bond emotionally and musically” between them. Jake sees why Shania selected them to play on the show.
Audience score: 4.0 stars
Jake’s pick: Adairs Run
Todd Hanchock and Pat Pollifrone, the bicep-flexing, Solo cup-chugging duo from the West Virginia-Virginia border, comprise the band Adairs Run, Jake Owen’s first pick of the season. They deliver an anthemic cover of David Lee Murphy’s “Dust on the Bottle” and get the crowd (and the panelists) moving and grooving. Travis praises their energy and advises them to “take all of [their] influences and then turn out something that doesn’t sound like any of ‘em.” Shania echoes the sentiment, encouraging the guys to do something so new that listeners forget about the OG version.
Audience score: 3.3 stars
Travis’s pick: Copper Chief
The first round finishes with Travis’s pick, Copper Chief, a roots country band from central Texas. Copper Chief characterize their style as “outlaw country,” and it’s not hard to see why. Decked out in wide-brimmed hats, long hair, voluminous beards, the trio gets the crowd on its feet with an explosive cover of Waylon Jennings’s “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.” They finish on a high-note, with a screaming blues guitar solo that would make Stevie Ray Vaughan proud. “You made me chest swell up with pride,” Travis tells them. Shaina extols the “kick-ass performance,” and the audience agrees, giving Copper Chief the highest score of the round!
Audience score: 4.2 stars
ROUND 2 (Guest judge: Big & Rich)
The Young Fables
For Round Two, The Young Fables chose Deanna’s Carter “Strawberry Wine,” a song that reminds them of their upbringing in East Tennessee. Wright’s wistful vocals and the workmanlike left-handed guitar playing of Lunford bring out the best of this bittersweet tune about young love. John Rich of Big & Rich likens Wright’s “velvet” voice and Shaina says, “It’s easy to sell a party song, but singing a drinking song like ‘Strawberry Wine,’ it’s a real challenge to deliver something like that.”
The guys in Copper Chief continue to flirt with Shania. In response to learning that the lead singer gave up a law career, the ever-quippy Rich proclaims, “If you’ve been pulled over for running an illegal moonshine still, call these boys at Beards.com!” (Later, he remarks that they look “like Charlie Daniels had triplet sons.”) The trio then launches into a spirited, rock-heavy cover of Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinkin,’” a song about the morning after a big night of drinking. Big Kenny offers his enthusiastic stamp of approval, Shania calls them “fearless,” and Travis tells the boys that they remind him of why he entered the country business to begin with.
The Young Fables: 3.9
Copper Chief: 4.6
WINNER: Copper Chief!