Yeehaw!!! AI kicks it's spurs into some grass-roots, middle American country Rock! Bring on the Eagles, bring on the Black Crows, bring on Shania, bring on ....Olivia Newton John??? Huh? What the funk? Yep, that's right, in the worst casting decision since Justin and Kelly were chosen to play themselves in that AI direct-to-video-bargain-bin movie, answering this week's cattle call for Judges was Olivia Newton John - famous for that Nashville romp 'Grease' and that Country-rock genre bending square-dance fave, 'Let's Get Physical.'

Okay, judging credentials aside (but honestly, didn't we miss Gladys??), the country/rock themed show wasn't the rowsing success producers must have hoped for. Most of these AI performers are not in their element singing in this genre, and it showed. So with that in mind, here are Numfar's Rankings and Spankings for this week.

Ruben - Still the best. Can sing anything. A musical surgeon who gave a twang-ectomy to 'Sweet Home Alabama', replacing it with a soulful-rockin' implant. Now..some criticism...Let's see... Okay, bad song choice for Ruben, given the song's history, and yeah, that shirt again. Blag. But Ruben just is the best singer of this group. Consistent *and* can swing many different sounds. But couldn't he at least have gone for a Dallas Cowboys themed 2o5 shirt this week? C'mon Ruben, you're not even trying. Dawg.

Josh - Ten gallons of good 'ol boy fun. Josh stormed the stage like a Rodeo clown being chased down by a brama bull on speed. Singing Garth Brooks' "Ain't goin' down til the sun comes up" - which sounds more like a boudoir delaying tactic than a country song, Josh gave his best performance so far. Though Johny Cash is in no jeopardy of loosing his title, Josh looked the part, dressed in black western-cut shirt and topped off with a sufficiently large and equally cowboy- noir hat. Yep, partner, Josh was up to his pointy-toed boots in his element, grinding and marble-mouth-twanging out the song. But he did have his problems. First, he faded on some lyrics. He was running about the stage like all giddy-up, and it seemed that even Marine training didn't provide him with the wind to finish some of the rapid-fire lyrics. Next problem was the head bobbing. Kinda looked like one of those red-and-yellow nic-nak birds that bob into a glass of water. Quite distracting, and begged the question - how'd he hide the chin-strap he must have had to keep that hat on? Anyway, This was Josh's best week, and he more or less nailed it. This is probably his high point in my rankings, and look for him to fall back a bit next week when the NASCAR crowd turns back to Nashville Idol. Randy summed it up best when he said "You're hot, dawg". Pass the mustard, Randy.

Kimberly Lock - Buy me a tequila, sheila, lay me down and love me again! Kimberly has redeemed herself two weeks in a row. She was smokin' on stage - with Bonny Rait's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Kim, dear - you keep singing like that, and you won't have to. Dare I say that I liked this version better than the original? And I like the original. Kimberly's hair again looked great, and her faux-snake skin sleeveless blouse and jeans fit the theme night well. This was the performance of the night, coming rather unexpectedly, given the genre. Other than the robo-arm moving and lack of stage movement (not that this song needs it) I think she was perfect. The Judges seemed to like it a lot too, and I can't believe that Simon called *this* on not being country - did he not listen to Trenyce? I can only surmise that Simon is not keen on Kimberly. Reason enough to get my vote, and reason enough to see Kimberly moving up the rankings this week.

Clay - Call the padre, b/c I'm about to commit a sacrilege. I'm tired of Clay. He sings what he sings brilliantly - I won't argue that. But he's *not* a country-rock singer, nor has he really shown himself to be anything but a very good ballad and theatrical singer. And he's beginning to take on stage-effectuations that would make Celine Dion proud. In fact, I watched Celine last night, and I swear some of the moves are the same. The heavy eye-lids, the clutching at the chest...gack. But most of the girls and some of the boys love this kid. I think the makeup artist for AI must love him too - b/c she obviously is making any excuse needed to spend extra time with him before the shows - I mean, I've seen less pancake on Shrove Tuesday. Simon is correct - identical to last week. And while it is brilliant - I need to see he can do other things before he can pass Ruben. That being said, the public support is unquestionably there, so he's still in one of the two top spots in most people's minds, but not mine.

Kimberly C - With golden ringlets framing her face, and dressed for a dip in the local watering hole, Kimberly sported a denim halter and asymmetric denim- and-some-material-that-men-don't-know skirt that showed more midriff than Shania shows in a full tour. Not sure what to call the look. 'Country-slut' or 'Neo- Nelly Olson' work. Kimberly sounded better than okay, but was disappointing in that this is her genre, and I'd have liked a real country-rock song, rather than a country ballad. Needless to say Travis Twit (whatever, I know) isn't one of my faves. The song was just a little flat, I think, and didn't really showcase Kim's perfectly suited for country/rock voice. That being said, she did a very, very good job, and is climbing her way back into the hearts of America - which will be quite an accomplishment.

Trenyce - *thunk* That was the sound of Trenyce falling in the rankings. Trenyce is a great singer, but, after last night, we know she's not a great country rock singer. Turning LeAnne Rimes' ballad 'I Need You' into a sloppy Motown bluesy number, Trenyce started out flat and low, and it seemed that about 15-20 seconds in, she just made the decision to give up on the country theme. After that she did a decent job when she really pushed her voice through the lyrics. But if that had any country over-tones, I'm Butch Cassidy. To her credit, she looked amazing again, in an olive dress and some beautiful jewelry.

Carmen - Ola! Carmen celebrated her 18th birthday by grabbing the bull by the horns. Taking the Country/Rock theme to heart, Carmen swaggered on stage and bleated out Martina McBride's "Wild Angels". Carmen's voice, as we know by now, is unique - but it suited this song. Despite barely-noticeable breaks at two points, she again showed she belongs on stage, outshining at least three of her competitors. I liked the look, I liked the song, and her stage command is fantastic. She deserves to stick.

Rickey - With the possible exception of Gregorian chants, I can't think of a genre that requires less funk 'n soul than country music. But even here, Rickey still falls short of the 'soul' factor. Now, he sounded fine - really good, even - but there was absolutely no Country, nor any Rock goin' on up there. Losing points for not getting in within 10 ranches of the theme, Rickey has sounded better, and he's been more comfortable. He's such a nice guy, but the shtick was getting a bit Howdy-Doody by the interview with Ryan... speaking of which, thank goodness for Rickey's sake that Ryan talked-over what looked like it was going to be counter to Simon's comments. Dodged a bullet this week, and dropped a few notches, but will likely improve as AI gets back in the neighborhood of genres he is comfortable with.

Julia D - I'd like a little off the back, and maybe some color...erm, sorry - that is for next week. Anyway, Julia actually looked good, and moved better (got rid of that annoying dance from the last couple of weeks). She even nailed the song fairly well...but she just hasn't got the power of the other girls, and Simon is right - it *does* look like she's trying too hard. The good news is that it does look like Julia's bottom 3 finishes the last 2 weeks have humbled her quite a bit. She was actually better than Trenyce last night - but that may not be enough to save her this week. Because I'd like to see her more than Corey, I hope she sticks.

Corey - Decked out in what can only loosely be described as a country-gay-chic motif of mesh-sports shirt with no undershirt, Corey came out and absolutely murdered the song. Viewers need to organize a posse and get rid of this guy. Upper-register be damned, he was brutal to my ears. Again. And I swear he sang "Give me the beach boy and free my soul"...perhaps there is a Cabana boy somewhere with his hopes up. To clarify, there's nothing wrong with this image, per se, but on country-rock night, one shouldn't sport a look that would make one a target at most any mid-western roadside tavern.