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W.Va. singer wins Country Showdown in Hagerstown

July 30, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Aspiring country music stars from across the Tri-State area took the stage Tuesday night at Cancun Cantina West to compete in the nation's largest and oldest country music talent search, the Colgate Country Showdown.

After scoring the 11 acts, judges picked guitar player and singer Jared Mullins of Romney, W.Va., to move on to a Sept. 9 competition at HersheyPark. In Pennsylvania, Mullins, who plays in the band Wasted Whiskey, will have a shot at a regional final and the nationally televised final, where the winner will receive $100,000 and a recording contract.

The runner-up was Jessica Rave of Chambersburg, Pa., a singer who has made it to the regional levels in competitions to appear on American Idol and Nashville Star. Third place went to Brynn Marie Cirota of Carmichaels, Pa., who describes herself as a "small-town girl ... whose heart's desire is to inspire and uplift people through her music."

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John Douglas, a music writer and newspaper editor who served on the three-judge panel, said the competition was very close.

"There were a lot of good singers," he said. "My top three were within five points (of each other)."

Judges gave the performers up to three points in the categories of marketability, vocal or instrumental ability, originality, stage presence and talent, with bonus points for songwriting on original songs.

Country music fans said the opportunity just to perform at Cancun Cantina was a big accomplishment for the performers.

"If you're a country music singer in Maryland and you perform at Cancun Cantina, you've made it," said Liz Dague, 46, of Middletown, Md., who said Cancun Cantina West and its Hanover, Md., counterpart are the two most popular country-western bars in the state.

Fans said Mullins stood out because he played guitar as well as sang.

"Anyone can stand up and do karaoke, but it takes talent to play the guitar at the same time," said Jeff Perla, 38, of Hagerstown.

Tuesday's contest was sponsored by country music station 104.7 WAYZ and the Savage Family Pharmacy. Prizes were provided by Martin's, Maple Leaf Tack and Western Wear of Hagerstown, Alter Ego of Hagerstown, Photo Gem of Greencastle, Pa., and Sagittarius Salon and Spa of Hagerstown.

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