SYNOPSIS: As the weeks pass, the competition at Nashville Star keeps getting more and more intense, and some of country's biggest names keep popping in to visit.

The fourth episode of the season opened with seven finalists remaining -- though only six would be moving on -- and this week, Nashville Star also welcomed some very special ladies. Double-platinum hit-maker (and one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People") Sara Evans kicked off the show with a performance of her hit "Real Fine Place to Start." Sara, who has performed on the show twice before, is no stranger to the Nashville Star stage and she wasn't the only familiar face on hand last night.

Another member of Nashville Star's extended family paid a special visit to the show: Wy's mother, Naomi Judd, sat in as guest judge! She joined official Nashville Star judges Phil Vassar and Anastasia Brown, and they weren't the only ones happy to have the country legend in the house. Wynonna sure seemed excited about having her mother around for "bring your parent to work day." (And not just because her proud mother called Wynonna "the best hostess since Twinkies!")

With the judges' seats filled, it was time for the contestant performances to begin. Before the first finalist was called to the stage, co-host Cowboy Troy announced that this week's vote was the closest in the history of Nashville Star. We weren't kidding when we said the competition was heating up!

First to make it off the hot seat and on to next week was country charmer Chris Young, whose worries about connecting with the audience seemed to be for nothing. His performance of Tim McGraw's "Real Good Man" made more than just his loyal female fans happy: all three judges agreed that his performance was a knockout. Naomi admitted that Chris is one of her favorite performers in the competition, and Phil said Chris "has got a real shot to win this show."

Next to perform was Kristin McNamara, whose rendition of "How Do I Live" scored big with the judges. "This is what I'm meant to do," she said about performing, and it looks like the judges (and the voters) agreed. She earned nothing but praise for her performance, but the "redneck with a sugar coating" did receive a little criticism: the female judges weren't big fans of Kristin's look, and Naomi even offered to take the young Nashville Star hopeful shopping!

While he might not be going on any shopping sprees with Naomi Judd any time soon, Casey Rivers will be making it through one more week at Nashville Star. He took a chance by performing the classic Jerry Lee Lewis hit "Great Balls of Fire," but it looks like the risk might not have paid off. Anastasia was "so disappointed" and Naomi agreed that the performance was not Casey's best, calling it "Great Balls of ... Lukewarm."

Jared Ashley was next to make it through another week of competition, and he too decided to mix it up a little this week, opting for a ballad. His performance of "It Would Be You" earned him mixed reviews. Anastasia believed that Jared "phoned in" his performance, and Naomi warned him to watch out for his "thin, nasal" sound. Even Phil agreed that Jared's strength lay in "rockin' out," and that this song might not have been his best choice.

Matt Mason performed next, and his performance of the Georgia Satellites' song "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" was a definite hit with the judges. Anastasia and Phil agreed that he showed range and ability, and Naomi gushed that it was Matt's best performance to date. "You've got a quality," she said, and told him that he had "a young Matt Damon thing going on." And apparently she's not the only Judd with a thing for the charming finalist ... Naomi revealed that Wynonna is crazy about young Matt too!

With five contestants through to next week, only Melanie Torres and Nicole Jamrose were left waiting in the wings. Cowboy Troy made the announcement and Melanie became the next Nashville Star contestant to be sent home.

Nicole took the stage and performed Bonnie Raitt's "Thing Called Love" and Anastasia called her the "best female artist in the competition." The compliment wasn't lost on Nicole, but the anxiety of elimination and the sadness in seeing her friend get the boot got to Nicole a little. She admitted to feeling a little sick to her stomach, and said "it's hard to say goodbye to someone you're so close to."

Meanwhile, a very gracious Melanie said her goodbyes, thanking her supporters for the "awesome opportunity" to be on Nashville Star and wishing her fellow finalists good luck.

And then there were six ... Next week, find out who will become the next contestant to go on a very special "Original Song Night" at Nashville Star! This is the finalists' chance to show America that they're more than just pretty faces in cowboy boots. These performers have got real talent as songwriters too, and you won't want to miss their amazing original songs.

If that's not enough, we've got another treat in store for you: Wynonna will take the Nashville Star stage to perform and 14-time Grammy winner David Foster will serve as guest judge! Tune in next Tuesday at 10/9C, and don't forget to let your voice be heard each week by voting for your favorite contestant!


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