Reality television has added another notch to its belt in our household: I’ve joined the Texas Gal in becoming a viewer of The Voice, the singing competition offered by NBC. She’s been a fan for some time, and as this season began, I joined her in the living room and found myself intrigued by some of the talent in the competition.
The structure of the competition – with head-to-head match-ups and so on – seems a little gimmicky sometimes, but one thing that does make it a better show than American Idol, which we’ve watched for years, is the opening round, in which hopeful contestants sing in blind auditions, with the chairs of the four judges facing away from them.
That means, of course, that the judges – Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams and Blake Shelton – can only assess a contestant by his or her voice in that first round. That’s an interesting twist, which I like.
Anyway, this season’s contest is underway, and I’ll likely follow it to the end. I have a few favorites among the contestants still alive in the competition. Among those eliminated, one of the intriguing entries was the duo of Jubal Lee Young and Amanda Preslar. Young is the son of country musician Steve Young, and for the blind audition, the duo performed the elder Young’s most famous song, “Seven Bridges Road.”
They advanced, landing a spot on Williams’ team, but were eliminated in the next round. The show’s profile of the two showed them with their families, including, of course, Steve Young. I was startled for an instant to see that he’s looking old and a bit frail, but then I realized that the man is in his seventies. (He’s seventy-three, to be precise.)
And as Young and Preslar sang the elder Young’s song during their blind audition, I thought, not for the first time, about what a great song it is. A couple of years ago, I found a quote from Steve Young about the song’s inspiration:
I lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early ’60s and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town, and after you had crossed seven bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name “Seven Bridges Road.” I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a hundred years, that people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time.
I shared Young’s original version of the tune then, and this morning, I thought I’d dig into the files and see what covers I have. The obvious one, of course, is the Eagles’ cover of the tune from their 1980 live album (a version that essentially replicates Ian Matthews’ 1973 version from his Valley Hi album). I’ve also got covers by Rita Coolidge and by Tracy Nelson with Mother Earth, both from 1971. I may dig up more – and there seem to be plenty of covers out there – but here’s Matthews’ version: