Thursday night (Feb. 20) was the night. It was the first live broadcast of the season for American Idol, and the Top 13 contestants were revealed. But I only have eyes for two -- Dexter Roberts and Ben Briley.
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Roberts and Briley have stood out to me from the very beginning as potential country singers. That's not to say they've only performed mainstream country songs since then. It's just that I could hear enough twang in their voices all along that made me hope for the best.
When Roberts auditioned with Idol alum Casey James' "Drive," he impressed Keith Urban right away. After just a portion of the song, Urban asked him what his influences had been. He named Urban, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line and the blues.
"I like the mix of all those things in your voice," Urban told him. "I can hear the blues influence and the bluegrass country."
When Briley auditioned, he did Amos Lee's "Arms of a Woman." (Lee is a frequent collaborator with the Zac Brown Band and is featured on their recording of "Day That I Die.")
Urban was effusive with praise after that song.
"If you sang a cappella on the radio right now, I would pull to the side of the road," he said. "I might crash my car. I just really love the sound of your voice."
Now all Briley and Roberts have to do is outshine the other 11 hopefuls in the finals. Those hopefuls are Malaya Watson, Emily Piriz, Jessica Meuse, Majesty Rose, M.K. Nobilette, Alex Preston, Sam Woolf , Caleb Johnson and the three wildcard choices: Jena Irene, Kristen O'Connor and C.J. Harris.