It's no wonder Voice coach Blake Shelton continuously expresses his dismay that 21-year-old Ashland Craft isn't on his team: the Piedmont, South Carolina native has a very good shot at winning the whole thing.
Craft's powerful, smoky rasp has drawn natural parallels to Chris Stapleton, but she also imbues her performances – she previously sang "You Are My Sunshine" and "Good Hearted Woman" on the show – with her own flair, contrasting her growl with round high notes.
Last night, the Team Miley Cyrus hopeful tackled Gretchen Wilson's 2004 "When I Think About Cheatin,'" from Wilson's breakthrough debut Here for the Party. The song proved to be a challenge for Craft during rehearsal, who struggled with confidence and fear of hitting the song's highest note.
"She's got stage fright and anxiety, which I didn't really see in the beginning...but I think a lot of it was in her own head," commented Cyrus during rehearsal. Cyrus advised Craft to "pretend you have holes on bottom of your feet and all the air is coming from the bottom of your feet into your lungs. When you go for any of those big notes when you get nervous, you blow out butterflies" – a trick she has used to counter her own stage fright.
When the big moment came, Craft seemed to have kept her nerves at bay, acing the high notes with composure. One of her more subdued numbers on the show, the first half of the tune brought out the understated-yet-palpable ache of Craft's voice. By the end, she let loose with her signature gritty roar, reminding Shelton and the audience why she's become an early favorite.
Along with Craft, fellow teammates Janice Freeman and Brooke Simpson will advance to the Live Playoffs. The Voice Live Playoffs begin next Monday, November 20th on NBC.