During the Wednesday night re-play of Scotty McCreery's audition footage, judge Randy Jackson reminded everyone that McCreery is "a country throwback" in the great tradition of Randy Travis. So we decided to give Travis a call, to ask his impressions of the three semi-finalists.
"Scotty, to my ear, sounds almost identical at times to [country star] Josh Turner," says Travis. "But yeah, a few people have told me he sounded like me. I hear more Josh."
Is he impressed with the 17-year-old so far? "My reaction to him is like watching someone who has lived on the stage," says Travis. "It's like watching a veteran at times. I did not have that or anything like that at his age. I'd sing and then walk off stage. There was no talking to an audience. I was certainly not an entertainer. He seems to have that ability—even at this young age—to go out and talk to an audience. He's even to the point, entertainment-wise, of moving on stage. He's a very talented guy. I didn't have any of that."
And what about the other country kid, 16-year-old Lauren Alaina, who admits to struggling with the higher notes and sometimes chickens out instead of reaching for them at all? "I've heard her get to a high note and cut it off quickly," says Travis. "To me, that is a smart singer. I've seen Reba McEntire walk on stage—and I've known her for a lot of years—when I know she's not 100 percent vocally. And she knows it. And she's a smart singer. Therefore, she will play it safe, everything in tune."
"There are those rare people who can walk up and be 100 percent vocally every night," continues Travis." One guy, Ray Price, is 84 years old and still does that every night. I don't get it. I don't understand it. But to me, Lauren is pretty smart. And as the years go by, and she sings more and more, [she might want to work with] a vocal coach just to learn, from a technical standpoint, how to use the right muscles to access some of the higher register."
And finally, what does he think of Haley Reinhart? "It's kind of like I've heard Randy Jackson say: There are performances that I've seen her do that are just great," says Travis. "I mean, just great. And then there are performances I've seen her do that sound like she's literally screaming at me. And there have been a few choices where I've sat and thought, 'Oh, no.' Randy said the true singer can sing anything. And my opinion is, no they can't."
Who is his favorite on the show? Turns out it's James Durbin. "I'm quite envious of where he can go to, vocally," says Travis. "I love it!"