Improvement all around on 'Nashville Star'

Billyraycyrus_nashvillestar_240 After a fairly dismal start, the contestants of Nashville Star decided to stop being mediocre as a whole and elevate to decent status. Bless their hearts.

Host Billy Ray Cyrus is introduced by a woman named Katie Cook. Looks like Mr. Cyrus has gotten himself a little hosting help. Billy Ray lets us know that the contestants have been broken up into men, women and groups for mentoring by the judges and throws to the package. John Rich got the women, Jewel got the men, and Jeffery Steele got the groups (to his slight chagrin).

After the package, the judges stand on stage with their respective groups as Billy Ray announces that the names he'll call are the acts that have earned enough votes to perform and move on to next week. After the first name, the judges sit for the rest of the show.

1. Laura & Sophie
Song: "Rockin' With The Rhythm of the Rain" by The Judds

Jeffrey coaches them on showcasing their friendship and playing to the audience. They were definitely more charismatic and they sounded really good. They're so young though and that might catch up to them. John makes a good point that he hopes they'll be able to sing songs that are age appropriate.

2. Ashley Hewitt
Song: "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash

John's trying to get her to perform outward more - seems to be a theme tonight. It's a tough song to do because it's so iconic but I think she did a good job. She's definitely improved from last week. She does need to work on her vocal control though. Because of all the extra bits she can throw into her tone, it might get away from her sometime soon.

Justingastin_nashvillestar_240 3. Justin Gastin
Song: "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's

The pretty boy made it through and had all kinds of problems playing in front of Jewel. He was nervous. First of all, I'm over this song. The radio stations killed it. Much like Justin did the song. I'm all for giving people a chance but...he's so not there yet. While much better than last week, he's still a good looking karaoke singer at this point. Jewel makes a good point saying that his problem isn't his voice quality, it's that he lacks control (I agree - he needs a solid 6-12 months of vocal training). John Rich then interjects that his terrible and snuck by onto the show which creates the beginnings of a dust that Billy Ray squashes by segueing to commercial.

4. Alyson Gilbert
Song: "Every Breath You Take" by The Police

John gives her some tough love by saying he thinks she should've went home last week. Ouch. But at least he's trying to help. She was a little pitchy but much better than last week. I wasn't blown away but I like her take on the song and wasn't at all pageant-y. The judges are all impressed and Jewel advises to take some notes from Reba on how to play the stage and relate to the audience.

5. Pearl Heart
Song: "Who Says You Can't Go Home" by Bon Jovi

Jeffrey really works on getting them used to working the stage and selling the song. As John says, it's a vast improvement from last week. The harmonies were great but there's still a little issue of stage presence with the younger sister who sings lead. Jewel advises to take some dance lessons so they can feel more comfortable on stage.

6. Tommy Stanley
Song: "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" by Big & Rich

Tommy gets bonus points for having the stones to perform this song for the guy who wrote and performs this song for a living. He has some issues with not having enough breath for a line here and there, but he's got the best stage presence of everyone so far. He's still on my list of favorites. Lots of positive comments from the judges, especially from John which is impressive.

7. Gabe Garcia
Song: "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Continuing the theme tonight, Jewel tells Gabe to make sure he connects with the audience. He wasn't nearly as nervous as last week which helped the vocals out tremendously. And he connected better to the audience. It wasn't boring like Jewel feared it might end up being.

Shawnmayer_nashvillestar_240 8. Shawn Mayer
Song: "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones

She gets bonus points for trying what many consider the greatest country song of all time and says she'd rather go out taking a big chance then playing it safe. The good news is that she wasn't over-singing like last week. Jewel tells her, from one girl to another, to learn how to be kind to herself and leave the baggage off the stage so she can really shine. Great advice I think. She has a lot of potential but the judges weren't impressed.

9. Coffey
Song: "Waiting On The World To Change" by John Mayer

Jewel tells him not to sing runs just to sing them, to make sure "they have meaning." He's still a bit pitchy, but he seems less nervous than last week. Well, until he holds his notes out. There's an awful lot of trill to it which is a surefire indication of nerves. John says that he hasn't seen Coffey's personality yet, that he's interpreting the song like the original artist and not himself.

Before we find out who goes home, Trace Adkins performs his new single "You're Gonna Miss This." He was good, though the first thing I think when I look at him is "Wow, you're a giant." Trace is a tall, tall, tall man. Oh, and the contestants join in as a backup choir. It's nice moment...though someone was a little sharp in there...one of the girls.

After coming back from a commercial break, Billy Ray informs us that the last two contestants will perform, then one will be eliminated. But no pressure.

10. Melissa Lawson
Song: "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin

John says, though she set the bar high last week, she's still got the potential to go even higher. She was shouting in one or two places but I kind of don't care. I really like her. It's a hard song and an odd arrangement. Jeffrey asks how she thinks she did on a scale from 1-10, she says 7.5 or 8. I agree.

11. Third Town
Song: "Mountain Music" by Alabama

Originally they were going to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" but Jeffrey wisely advised against it. They changed their minds but wasted a lot of time trying to make the other song work. My problem with them is that the quality of their voices as a group is on the high, slightly nasal side. They were better but still, I just wasn't feeling them. Neither were Jewel or John, though Jeff complimented them on their improvement from last week.

All right, after a lot of hullabaloo, it's revealed that Third Town has been eliminated. And I'm not the least bit surprised.

Do you think Third Town should've stayed? Who do you think is the front runner, if there even is one at this point? I'm glad everyone improved from last week - I was getting worried.