Sam Woolf goes country on 'American Idol' showcase

mclear@bradenton.comMarch 5, 2014 

On Wednesday’s “American Idol,” Sam Woolf was a little bit country.

The Bradenton singer/songwriter, who has made it to the final 12 contestants on this season of the hit TV talent show, offered an intimate performance of “Just One” by the Oregon indie-folk band Bling Pilot.

Woolf sat and played guitar, surrounded by beaming young female fans only inches away. An unseen backup band, including a pedal steel guitar, gave Woolf’s version a more pronounced country feel than the original.

The show’s theme was “Home,” and contestants were each asked to perform a song reflecting their feelings about home. In a taped segment before his live performance, Woolf said “Just One” was a favorite song among his friends when he lived in Michigan, before he moved to Bradenton to live with his grandparents eight years ago.

“I hope the audience can connect to this song, and I hope I can connect to it as well,” Woolf told “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.

The three judges — Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. — gave Woolf much the same feedback they’ve been giving him for the past three weeks. They praised his voice but said he should start to bring more energy to his performances.

Connick called it “emotional dynamics.” “I though it was a pleasant performance,” Connick said. “But there has to be change. I’m starting to feel that there’s one level when you perform, emotionally. I think you need to try something else.”

Urban had more praise for the 17-year-old Braden River High School senior. “Your tone, the tone of your voice, is like butter. It’s so good, man. It’s beautiful, beautiful,” he said. “If you made an album tomorrow of original songs I’d go and buy that record.”

Urban predicted Woolf would have a chance to bring an extra element to his performance. “I guarantee you’ll be back here next week, Sam,” Urban said.

It’s not really up to Urban and his fellow judges, though. At this point, public votes determine who advances and who goes home. One contestant will be eliminated every week.

A new feature on this week’s show was “real time” voting results at the end of each hour. Woolf performed early in the second half of the two-hour show, and ranked second among the six performers from that hour.

The results show at 8 p.m. Thursday on Fox will reveal who got the fewest votes after Wednesday’s performances. Former “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips and hot Irish band Kodaline will perform on Thursday’s show.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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