EPISODE PREMIERE: March 21, 2006

SYNOPSIS: The second episode of Nashville Star started with a bang as country music's hottest Redneck Woman, Gretchen Wilson, took the stage to give a special LIVE performance and show our nine Nashville Star finalists a thing or two about how to rock redneck style.

Though Gretchen was a tough act to follow, the nine remaining Nashville Star contestants were ready to take the stage and join the Redneck Revolution. Unfortunately, not everyone would get a chance: by the end of the night, one Nashville Star hopeful would become the first contestant eliminated by America.

Nashville Star's very own judges, singer-songwriter Phil Vassar and music industry veteran Anastasia Brown, were joined by guest judge Larry the Cable Guy, who injected some of his trademark humor into the show. But even the comedian couldn't ease the minds of the anxious finalists, each hoping to hear his or her name called and make it one more week.

The first performer to make it to next week's show was shy 20-year-old Matt Mason, who co-host Cowboy Troy dubbed "The Quiet Storm." And last night Matt proved that when it comes to this competition, the other contestants might want to take cover: he wowed the judges with his rendition of the Hank Williams hit "Born to Boogie."

Next to perform was "hot mama" Nicole Jamrose, whose choice of the Trick Pony song "Pour Me" wasn't exactly a hit with the judges. Nicole took the criticism in stride, but admitted to missing her two young children and her husband (who was home babysitting).

Jared Ashley, whose performance last week inspired some harsh words from Anastasia, was given a chance to redeem himself last night. The other judges admired Jared's rendition of Big & Rich's "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," but Anastasia still wasn't convinced. "It's hard to be mad at her," said a forgiving Jared, "she's so beautiful."

Another country beauty, former Miss Albuquerque Melanie Torres, was next to perform, and the songstress impressed the judges with more than just her good looks. Her rendition of Jo Dee Messina's "My Give a Damn's Busted" scored big, and Anastasia called Melanie the "best chick singer" in the competition.

After another show-stopping performance by Gretchen Wilson, it was time to call up a few more contestants. Chris Young was the next finalist to make it out of the hot seat, and while the 20-year-old received mixed reviews from Anastasia, Phil was impressed: "You're not even old enough to go into a bar, but I believed you," he said of Chris's performance of the Charlie Daniels song "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye."

Casey Rivers was next to take the stage, and the judges admired both his voice and his performance of Travis Tritt's "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde." The young bachelor seemed to be enjoying himself both onstage and off: when questioned by co-host Wynonna Judd about living the single life as a Nashville Star finalist, a smiling Casey admitted that he had "no complaints."

Another contestant who couldn't complain was Monique Lecompte, who was spared further anxiety when she became the next finalist called to perform. Monique set out to prove her country chops this week, and her choice to sing "Guys Do It All The Time" seemed to pay off. The judges didn't all have glowing reviews, but Wynonna admired Monique's decision to sing a song about women kickin' back and kickin' butt.

With seven contestants assured of a spot on the show next week, two were left wondering if they'd be making it any further. As Kristen McNamara and Shy Blakeman waited to hear their fate, Wynonna dished out some words of wisdom: "If your miracle doesn't happen tonight, keep showing up," she advised.

Then the moment of truth arrived, and Shy Blakeman became the first finalist sent home by America. A relieved Kristen closed the show with a crowd-pleasing -- and judge-impressing -- rendition of the Reba McEntire hit "Fancy," while a disappointed but composed Shy assured his fans that he would "keep on keepin' on." It may have been the end of his Nashville Star experience, but the judges agreed that it wouldn't be the end of the road for the talented young Southern Rocker.

Tune in next week for another LIVE episode and find out which of the remaining eight Nashville Star finalists will make it through another round, and who will be next to get sent packing. Plus, don't miss a special performance by the Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers, and an appearance by WWE superstar John Cena as guest judge.

And be sure to vote for your favorite Nashville Star finalist after next week's show, because from here on in it's up to you to decide who keeps rockin' and who keeps walkin'!


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