Last night, American Idol rolled into Austin, Texas and the cowboys rode off the range to perform for the judges!  Some of 'em sang real purty!  Some of them made us want to take a spur to the neck!  Our American Idol expert Steve Thompson breaks it down for you with this Thursday's Idol Chatter.  Enjoy!

I now fully believe that the audition rounds work better in this one hour format.  Granted, we don't see very many successful auditions (but we never did anyway.)  By the end of the show, we are told 50 made it to Hollywood from Austin.  Only 11 are singled out by name.

First up, we had Cory Levoy singing the Bonnie Raitt classic "I Can't Make You Love Me."  Was it just me or did this seem like a rather odd song choice for a brother to be singing for his sister?  Yeah...  I understand he chose the song before his sister was invited to judge, but the effect was unintentionally uncomfortable.  Then, he tells America he has a J Lo booty.  I'm just sayin'...

Hollie Cavanaugh was next with yet another audition of "At Last."  I didn't care for this at all and was ready to dismiss her, then she got a second chance with "The Climb."  Now I'm not gonna insult your intelligence.  Etta James trumps Miley Cyrus big time.  However, Hollie sang the second song much closer to being in tune than the first.  Simon wouldn't have said yes-- but he's not playing with Idol anymore.

Rodolfo Ochoa decides to sing "The Circle of Life" which inspires most of America to think of a slow, painful death.  I guess the Idol Nazi would say: "no ticket for you!"

What about the cowboy who assures us he's 100% heterosexual?  This is the year of True Grit, not Brokeback Mountain.

John Wayne Schultz is a cowboy who was given the name John Wayne to make him tough. Question: Does this mean in thirty years we'll have a Chuck Norris Brillstein? (I think we all remember how well things worked out forJohn Wayne Gacy.)  Fortunately, he has a decent voice and does a reasonably good job on the Brooks & Dunn song "Believe."  I'm interested in seeing how many of these folks auditioning with country songs will make it to the top 40.

Speaking of country, Courtney Penry auditions with a nice version of "Stay" by Sugarland.  She doesn't have the nasal twang of Jennifer Nettles, but she does have a nice soulful country sound.  Julianne Hough better watch her back, though...  It seems Courtney is all kinds of crazy about a certain Seacrest fellow.  Delusional singers often appear on this show; delusional stalkers?  Not so much.

Three folks we are shown in the speed of light...  Shauntel Campos, Alex Carr, and Caleb Johnson.   Of these three, I liked what I heard of Caleb's take on "Rusty Cage"-- a song originally by Soundgarden, but covered brilliantly by Johnny Cash.  Shauntel also impresses J Lo with "A House is Not a Home."-- but I wouldn't go that far.

The cutesy couple of the week award goes to Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink.  Jacqueline does a really great take on the song "Mercy" which I don't think was even on my radar until I heard one of the vocal groups attempt it on The Sing-Off.   Nick sings the song "Sunday Morning," a song I don't care for at all so I admit to bias and move on.  I would have chosen Jacqueline over Nick in a heartbeat-- but in retrospect, I can see where Nick looks like an extra from Glee.

Janelle Arthur does a nice version of the song "Syrup and Honey," then upon Steven Tyler's request for something more up-tempo, hits a Shania Twain song out of the park.  She reminds me of a Carrie Underwood crossed with Kellie Pickler combination, probably more Kellie than Carrie.  Just an observation and it costs you, the reader, absolutely nothing.

Casey Abrams and his melodica round out the evening and he proves to be an unlikely contender.  Who knew a scattastic Ray Charles cover of "I Don't Need No Doctor" would bring the house down?  I worry that this kid could be another Taylor Hicks-- popular with the fans but not successful once he has a contract.  He'll have to show he's more than a one trick pony to go much further.  Thankfully, that's why Jimmy Iovine will be coming soon.

My personal favorites of the evening were Jacqueline Dunford and Casey Abrams.  Your mileage may vary.

Tomorrow night?  We'll find out if Idol Loves L.A.

@February 2, 2011  Stephen W Thompson