“Country music is three chords and the truth” – Harlan Howard
The first seven episodes of Real Country have each featured three talented artists and yielded one winner. Now it all comes down to the finale -- each contestant performs one song for the chance to win $100,000 and an opportunity to play a show at the historic Grand Ole Opry. Judges Shania Twain, Jake Owen, and Travis Tritt take the seven finalists to the stage of the Opry to let them breathe in the country music history. “There are not many places that I’ve performed that make my knees quiver a little bit, but this is one of ‘em,” Travis says.
Grammy-nominated songwriter and part-time waitress Jamie Floyd sets the bar high with a gritty rendition of Tricia Yearwood’s “Wrong Side of Memphis” -- a song about deciding to go for something and letting nothing or no one get in your way. “That was hotter than two-dollar pistol, honey.” Travis says.” “You hold the standard of country music very high,” Shania adds.
Audience score: 3.9 stars
Copper Chief wowed the crowd earlier in Season 1 with their explosive brand of Southern-fried outlaw country. Tonight, the trio returns with a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that begins with hushed harmonies and concludes with a massive electric guitar solo. “The innovation you guys have displayed doing this song this way has really blown me away,” Shania says excitedly. “That was awesome!” Travis adds that he’d be able to immediately recognize Copper Chief’s unique sound if he heard it on country radio.
Audience score: 4.0 stars
Louisiana rodeo queen Kylie Frey returns to the Real Country honky-tonk to light up the stage with her giant smile and a cover of Jamie O’Neal’s “There Is No Arizona,” a song about the realities that bring you down to earth when you’re chasing a dream. She performs in front of a Southwestern tableau of cacti and a blood-red sky sunset. Jake praises her range and Shania praises her emotional energy. “I really appreciated the heart that you put into that.”
Audience score: 3.3 stars
Frank Ray earned a reputation as a one-man party during his first appearance on Real Country. He dials things back considerably in the finale with a cover of “When You Say Nothing at All,” his tribute to his fiancée, Emily. A gently-turning disco ball and blanket of stars set an intimate mood for the ballad. “It’s amazing what the power of a woman will do for a man,” Jake remarks, saluting Frank for stepping outside his comfort zone. “[You] entertain and hype people up,” Shania says. “At the same time, you can pull on a heartstring. I think you’re capable of anything.”
Audience score: 3.7 stars
Jaida has something a little different to share with the Real Country honky-tonk. Instead of doing a cover, she flexes her songwriting skills with a brand-new original called “Jack It to Jesus (And Spray It to Hell),” in reference to Loretta Lynn’s directions for her hairstylist. The song is bluesy, upbeat, and saucy, and it showcases Jaida’s knack for lyrics: “Well sometimes, you’ve gotta stitch your own seams, thread your own needle with your sequin dreams,” she croons. “You blazed a trail tonight,” Jake tells her proudly. “I feel bad for a lot of the other folks on the show because you just set that stage on fire.”
Audience score: 4.6 stars
“You are such a breath of fresh air,” Shania tells Alabama phenom Tiera. “Already at a young age, you understand how to interpret a song your own way.” Tiera explains that she has chosen to cover a song that conveys her desire to break the mold and represent diversity in country music: Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” With her family in attendance, Tiera lights up the stage to the extent that Travis suggest she change her name to “Diamond Tiera.” “We have a superstar right here in front of us,” Shania says. “I want this young lady representing country music around the world.”
Shania: 3.7 stars
Larry Fleet radiates positive, laid-back, blue-collar vibes, and he closes out season one of Real Country (after eating some chicken backstage) with a cover of Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good,” backed by a full horn section. Jake tells him, “You crushed it, and you looked good doing it.” Travis chimes in: “Not only did you look good singing that song, but you sounded good singing that song.”
Audience score: 4.1 stars
Real Country Season 1 champion: JAIDA DREYER!