Last week on Nashville Star the competing acts took on pop songs and made them country in performances that ranged from surprisingly entertaining to horrible on every front (Coffey, I’m looking at you).  Despite showing some growth, pretty boy Justin Gaston was given the heave ho by Nashville Star voters.

Nine acts remain and tonight each of them will be performing twice.  We’ll also get to see into their home lives as the performers are treated with surprise visits from their families, and singer Blake Shelton will be stopping by to perform his hit single “Home.”  With over 18 performances, this evening’s episode is just packed with wholesome country goodness.

Billy Ray Cyrus’s daughter opens the show by introducing her dad to the stage. Don’t get too excited, it’s not Miley but another daughter named Noah. The whole point of her adorable little intro is to say that it’s family night on Nashville Star and, fittingly, all of the finalists’ families are in the audience.

Ashlee Hewitt is the first safe contestant and we’re told she has the largest family in Nashville Star history. She performs “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, starting on the piano before going to guitar and ending strong.  She follows it up with a short snippet of “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” originally performed by Sammi Smith. John Rich and Jeffrey Steel thought she did well and is slowly growing as the weeks go by, while Jewel thought she could work on not seeming like she’s over thinking her moves.

The second safe contestant is Coffey, who was reunited with his cute daughter Savannah. His first song is “Hey Good Looking,” and he sounds much better than he did during last week’s monstrosity. His second choice is a brief bit of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Jeffrey Steele isn’t digging Coffey’s beans, while John Rich doesn’t think he’s country and says he should go be pop at American Idol. Oh John Rich, do shut up with your tiresome American Idol ranting. Jewel is much kinder but doesn’t think his songs were great.

Though he was on the chopping block last week, Tommy Stanley is safe this week and got to see his family for the first time in over a year. Also visiting? Some of his fellow USS Kittyhawk sailors, who file awkwardly on stage to be all, “I love you, bro.” Anyway, Rascal Flatts’s “Bless the Broken Road” is Tommy’s first song, followed by Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” John thinks Tommy is just as pop as Coffey, but Jeffrey and Jewel both appreciated his work despite a few vocal missteps.

Pearl Heart is safe and the girls are reunited with . . . their dog? Oh, and the rest of their family too, they just hid behind a curtain for a second. That would have been bad if their whole family was a dog. They’d be like the Boxcar Children or something. Anyway, they sing the ballad “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart, which Jeffrey Steel tells them makes him cry, and the more upbeat “One Way Ticket.” The judges thought they harmonized well, if not completely perfect.

Safe too is Melissa Lawson, who is so excited to see all five of her boys and her husband. Her first song is Martina McBride’s “This One’s for the Girls,” which she plays up to be all empowering. She follows up with “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, which is a song I absolutely love and which she sings beautifully. The judges thought she was fantastic, especially on the first song’s low notes, and John Rich even declares that if the show was over tonight she’d be the winner.

Shawn Mayer is safe and is happy to be reunited with her “sounding board” sister. Her sister and parents help her pick her first song, “Breathe” by Faith Hill, in an attempt to make her seem girlier. Kicking it up a notch, she follows that song with “Forever and Ever, Amen.” The judges felt she did well on the first song, but still has a lot to work on. Jewel says she prefers Shawn to be raw more than girly, and I agree with her — don’t go all glossy, Shawn! On the second song, John thought she was awful and really digs into her about consistency.

Leaving the final three hanging on whether or not they got through, Blake Shelton comes to sing a cover of Michael Bublé’s “Home” along with the top nine contestants and their families on backup.

That done, it’s time to see who made it and who will possibly be eliminated tonight. Gabe Garcia is safe, meaning Alyson Gilbert along with Laura and Sophie are the bottom vote getters. The former? Not so surprising. But Laura and Sophie? Hmm . . .

Anyway, Gabe is naturally glad to see his family and comes on to perform “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “The Fireman.” The judges thought he was great, finally bringing in some performing ability to go along with his great country singing.

Alyson Gilbert got reamed out by John Rich last week, so she was happy to see her mother and husband at her mentoring session. The bottom two only get to sing one song until the announcement of who is safe and Alyson sings “She’s in Love with the Boy,” originally by Trisha Yearwood. The judges all hated her and her bulging eyeballs, thinking she was trying too hard. John Rich says she has her moments but needs to be more than just moments, while Jewel thinks Alyson really needs to get some soul in her before she can sing well.

Laura and Sophie are surprised by their respective families, and both are glad to see their parents and siblings. John Rich wants them to rock it up a little bit and so they sing “Walking On Sunshine” as their first (and possibly last) song. Jewel and John thought it should have been great, but thought instead that the girls came off like high school talent show contestants. Their mentor Jeffrey said he was proud of their work, but he needs them to step it up if they make it through.

The eliminated contestant is, unsurprisingly, Alyson Gilbert. After her gracious exit, Laura and Sophie perform their second song which is — oh my god — Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” This is where I admit I’m a big ol’ Kelly fan and thus cannot begin to be objective about this cover except to say it’s . . . two high school girls trying to do Kelly. Or maybe it’s the Reba version that featured Kelly, doesn’t matter. If Kelly and her best friend forever Reba made a guest appearance on this show I’d lose my mind, I’m not going to lie.

Next week: two contestants will be eliminated, with one not even making it past the first five minutes of the show. Harsh!

– , BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Photo courtesy of NBC)

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