The third episode of Real Country endeavors to get to the heart of what it means to live in the countryside and how country music relates to and channels that lifestyle. “To me, living country is someone who enjoys going to a bonfire more than they do the ballet,” explains Travis. Shania adds, “Living country to me is writing about real life. And that’s why i think it’s so relatable.”
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.
Jake’s pick: Jaida Dreyer
All Jaida Dreyer knows is the road. She grew up driving state to state with her mother, who worked in the horse industry. As an adult, she’s found a home as a songwriter in Nashville, where her compositions have been recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw, Eric Church, and Luke Bryan. Tonight, she eases into a sly rendition of Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy,” a paean to lower class people with upper class hearts. Jake describes her as “Johnny Cash meets Amy Winehouse.” Shania tells her, “I was blown away. I loved the smoky sound of your voice. You just have a powerful personality. You’re awesome.”
Audience score: 4.2 stars
Travis’s pick: Dave Kennedy
Dave Kennedy wears long hair and a bushy goatee and looks like he walked out of 1972. A believer that “a real country song should hurt a little bit,” the Chattanooga guitarist and singer has been full-time traveling musician for a full decade. He struggles with the constant separation from his wife Kate and daughter Alice, but his career has their unconditional support. He rendition of Little Feat’s “Willin’” makes Travis proud. Travis tells Dave his voice and style easily fit in on the radio; Shania calls his performance “really moving”; Jake compliments his bead. “That voice is so honest,” Travis says. “You could sing anything you wanted to.”
Audience score: 4.1 stars
Shania’s pick: Davisson Brothers Band
The first round concludes with the Davisson Brothers Band, a four-man group from Harrison County, WV that describes themselves as “a little too country” and boasts a #1 single in Australia. They are here today in hopes of expanding their fanbase stateside. Their cover of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried,” an ode to the simple pleasures, comes with pyrotechnic plumes and some world-class jigging by the lead singer. The judges compliment his jigging, which he classifies as “Appalachian flatfooting.” “This is what I want to see on a Friday night,” Shania tells them. “You are what I consider my roots of true bluegrass, mountain, country music. And I miss that in our genre. I’d like to hear more of it.”
Audience score: 3.4 stars
ROUND 2 (Guest judge: Devin Dawson)
Jaida’s sultry vocals develop a raspier edge on her cover of “I’ve Been Everywhere”, the timeless song made popular by Hank Snow in 1963. She rattles off name places like her life depends on it; it’s a performance bound to induce an immediate hoedown in your living room. “I don’t think you missed a word,” remarks guest judge Devin Dawson. “You have this really cool classic confidence about you that is infectious and I love it. Shania compares her to the great Loretta Lynn.
To the judge’s great surprise and delight, Dave struts out barefoot in a sparkling teal shirt and pants outfit designed by Nudie Cohn. (“Porter Wagoner would be proud,” Travis says.) The son of two educators, Dave dedicates his rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” to his mother. It’s a righteous toe-tapper of a performance that draws high praise from Travis. “You curl those notes and you blues ‘em up. It sets my soul on fire.” Devin compliments Dave’s “buttery, crisp tone”; Shania points out his Travis Tritt influence; Jake digs his “Jesus look.”
Jaida Dreyer: 4.7
Dave Kennedy: 4.2
WINNER: Jaida Dreyer!