The Texaco Country Showdown continues tonight at Cotton Eyed Joe (11220 Outlet Drive in West Knoxville), and after the boys in Blount/Monroe County band Southbound won the first round of competition on July 21, two more Blount County music acts are set to go head-to-head tonight.
It’s be a bit of a lover’s quarrel, albeit a professional (and friendly) one — local teen country singer Laurel Wright will compete against the boys in the John Titlow Band — which includes her boyfriend, Zach Long, on bass.
“It’s gonna be really different,” Titlow admits, pointing out that his band and Wright have shared the stage many times for various benefits and concerts — but never as rivals.
“They’re already saying it’s rigged!” Wright jokes about her beau’s group.
In all seriousness, both are fine representatives of Blount County in the competition, which gives them a chance to go for some national spotlight. It’s billed as “the largest country music talent search in America … designed to find the most promising country music talent and give these performers a chance to launch their professional music careers.”
Tonight is the final of three rounds of competition (the Greylan James Band won the contest last Thursday, July 28), and the three winners will compete on Thursday, Aug. 11, for the championship and the opportunity to compete nationally for $100,000. (And, we’re obliged to point out, the JTB and Wright are the only competitors tonight; there are three other country artists going up against them.) The competition starts at 9:30 p.m., and ladies get in free (admission is $5). It’s all ages, but for those 21 and older, there will be free pitchers of beer served.
Regardless of who wins (although we’re obviously pulling for the Blount County faction — both of them), it’s a feather in the cap of both groups. Wright is about to get busy in the studio, making an album with local Mojo Recording Studios owner Lewell Molen out at his headquarters in Greenback. She’s still talking from folks to Nashville, and who knows what those conversations may bring, but for now, fans of her music should be glad they’ll finally have an album in hand.
“We just decided it the other day,” Wright said. “Me and Lewell talked about it, and if we do one now, if somebody wanted to sign me later we’ll already have it done.”
Deciding what to put on it will be the hard part — she has 40 or 50 original songs and continues to write more (including “Can’t You See,” her latest, about “a boy being wrapped around my finger,” she said with a smile). That’s a Herculean effort given that she’s also a homeschooled high school junior doing her best — and succeeding — to enjoy her teenage years.
“I think everything is balanced good right now,” she said. “I feel really blessed.”
Speaking of new albums, the John Titlow Band is working on an acoustic record the guys hope to have out in late fall, Titlow said.
“We’re still working on some of it; it’s completely new material, and we have some really good songs,” he said. “I’m really proud of what we’re doing. It seems like the second go-around is going a lot easier and better than the first.”
Fans may have noticed that the band is getting out a lot more these days — after getting in with Copper Cellar, the John Titlow Band has been popping up at the various Smoky Mountain Brewery/Calhoun’s Restaurant locations around East Tennessee.
“It’s just exploded in the last six months. Things are really going good for us,” said Titlow — who was called on stage by up-and-coming country star Bradley Gaskin on Wednesday night at Cotton Eyed Joe to sing Gaskin’s hit, “Mr. Bartender.”
Assuming one of the two acts wins tonight, they (or she) will be in good company, given Southbound’s win on the 21st. And it’s proof that there are some extremely talented country musicians right here in our backyard. There’s a reason for that, according to Jason Harris of Southbound.
“We remember where we come from, and the way you live gets into your writing,” Harris said. “You write music that your neighbor can say, ‘I know exactly how that old boy — or old girl — feels. They relate to that music.
“Being a part of (the showdown), it just felt great to be recognized and have the opportunity to be able to go on to the next (level). And to have the opportunity to get national recognition out of this whole thing is just an added bonus itself.”