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Various Artists

Nashville Star: The Finalists – 2003 (Columbia)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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This Nashville edition of America's newfound obsession with amateur hour and instant celebrity-hood is more about the performances of instantly familiar country music classics, than the discovery of tomorrow's country music superstar. In fact, you're likely to hear more Hank Williams Sr. and Willie Nelson on this disc, than you'll ever find on any of today's contemporary country radio stations.

Actually, this is much closer to a national karaoke championship, than anything else. One imagines that TV viewers and voters will vote with their eyes, and not with their ears, so the evidence on this album won't help anybody predict this contest's winner. But if this were a radio event, Natasha Valentine, who is a dead-ringer for Patsy Cline on "You're Cheatin' Heart," deserves some kind of a prize or other. And on the flipside, Amy Chappell sounds as if she's sleepwalking through "Son Of A Preacher Man." This is one song that ought to get its singer all fired-up, but one imagines Chappell's 'preacher man' is nothing more than some aging Unitarian minister - based upon this singer's total lack of enthusiasm, at least.

Once all is said and done, it'll be fun to watch the winner of this contrived competition go on to make an album for the Nashville music machine; one that will be filled with songs that may not hold a candle to any of the excellent material covered on this disc.