Country fans tuning in for Season 12 of NBC's The Voice have likely witnessed everything from Reba-style Nineties throwbacks to contemporary radio singles. Last night's semifinals upheld the tradition, cramming four country performances into the two-hour episode.
Perhaps most outstanding of them all was soulful powerhouse Jesse Larson, who performed Chris Stapleton's "I Was Wrong," a cut from the new album, From A Room: Volume 1. During rehearsal, Larson shares that he thought this song was his best fit yet, especially since he lost his dad about a year ago: "This reminds me so much of my dad, he gravitated towards music that hits you in the heart," he says.
With pipes that could make "Mary Had a Little Lamb" sound interesting, Larson's booming wail builds slowly during his live performance. He slips right into Stapleton's character, channeling the troubled, pleading disposition throughout. Vocally, he shows hints of Warren Haynes in his delivery – his insane guitar skills don't hurt, either – while the song takes on a more desperate, urgent vibe than the mellower studio cut. "I genuinely believe that this guy is the best we've got. . .the fact that there's even a slim chance that he may not be in the finale is a crime to me," Levine pleads, promising that they will blow America's mind if Larson continues onto the finals.
Meanwhile, classic country favorite Lauren Duski took on Shenandoah's 1990 hit single, "Ghost in This House" (also covered by Alison Krauss). While rehearsing, she shares that experiencing heartbreak has allowed her to connect with the song more meaningfully. She sounds solid, but coach Blake Shelton urges her to project more. "I can definitely see Lauren selling out stadiums," Shelton adds at the end. "She's got the voice, she's got stage presence, she's got a great personality."
And she certainly didn't disappoint when she took the stage, exuding her usual calm energy while her pure vocals outshone her stunning evening gown and the elaborate production surrounding her. As in previous performances, her commanding stage presence and soaring upper register notes remind viewers that this 25-year-old has some serious star power.
Also of note last night was teen frontrunner Brennley Brown's upbeat performance of Sara Evans' "Suds in the Bucket," from the 2003 album Restless. Coach Gwen Stefani applauds her choice of a more playful song, saying, "I think you're so gifted and so strong that sometimes I even forget [that you're 15]. I'm so proud of because I want everyone to know emotional songs are in a way easier because you just fall into the song, but to entertain and do a song that's uptempo like that, that has a lot of personality, takes a lot of confidence."
Later in the show, Brown also teamed up with Duski for a duet of "Good Hearted Woman," written by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (appearing on the former's self-titled 1972 album, and recorded as a duet with the latter in 1975). The single has also been covered by LeAnn Rimes, Tina Turner and Hank Williams III, among others. See it below.
The Voice returns tonight Tuesday, May 16th at 8:00 p.m. ET, where the top four finalists will be revealed.