Memphis-based guitarist and singer Preston Shannon made good case for the blues on the final blind edition episode of "The Voice" Monday (Feb. 27). While the 64-year-old blues veteran with five solo albums under his belt did not get any judges to turn their chairs around, he got more primetime exposure than at any moment in his career.
Shannon knocked around various Memphis bands until he landed in Shirley Brown's group before he wound up leading his own outfit; in 1996, his Rounder Records release "Midnight in Memphis" put him on the blues map. While his performance did not win him a spot on any of the four coaches' teams, it may well have helped earn him a few fans who bothered to Google him after the show ended. He certainly received some well-earned praise from the judging panel.
Not coincidentally, the final round in which each of the judges -- Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton -- sets their teams of 12, the final additions relied on traditional vocal forms such as the blues to make the cut. Whitney Myer, who leads a funk band out of Reno that includes her father and uncle, gave a bluesy, Dave Matthews-inspired spin on Alicia Key's "No One" that got all four judges to hit their red buttons. She went with Levine, who compared her to Mary J. Blige.
Likewise, Orlando Napier has a family blues band and hopes to bring his saxophonist father onto the show. His soulful version of John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change" also landed him on Levine's team last night.
Sera Hill, a front desk clerk at a hotel, drew out the blues roots of Mary J. Blige's "I'm Goin' Down" and even got her new judge, Aguilera, to join her for a bit of give and take on the chorus. In that short burst of vocal activity Aguilera demonstrated her ability to oust any competitor on "The Voice," but it also displayed her willingness to approach her charges as peers. The potential for tight intermingling gives "The Voice" a leg up on its competition.
Otherwise, the final edition of the auditions felt predictable -- the contestants who appeared full of themselves or in need of a change to escape the riches of the family business were sent packing. The Oklahoma sorority gal, Adley Stomp, who has been singing country music for less than a year, wound up on Shelton's team. Meanwhile, a mediocre performance of Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy" wound up scoring deep-voiced contestant Cheesa a last-minute spot on Cee Lo's team of a dozen contestants.
Proof that the conceit of blind auditions works came when the two portly Shields brothers from rural Virginia belted out Gen X's "Dancing With Myself" and won the a red button push from Green. If he had seen them, it would have likely been a no, but the promise of a duo belting out honest rock'n'roll was too good of a dream to pass up. Perhaps Aguilera felt the same when she gave a nod to Lee Koch, a baker out of Temecula, Calf., who delivered an off-balance rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone." She said she liked his harmonica solo, but when you see whiny singing a Bob Dylan song, you know you're in trouble; odds are he is among the first to go in the next round. Now, if Preston Shannon is playing some Dylan, that would be interesting to hear.