The Voice Season 22 returned on Monday (Oct. 10) with the first pairing of the season as contestants faced off in the grueling Battle Rounds. This round had each coach bringing on an advisor to help guide their teams who were readying their next performance. Veteran coach Blake Shelton enlisted fellow country star Jimmie Allen to offer advice to hopefuls during rehearsals.
“Jimmie couldn’t be hotter right now. He’s starting to hit his stride as a major hitmaker in country music,” Shelton said of Allen. “He’s the CMA New Artist of the Year. He can relate to these people who are still right there on the edge of having their moment.”
For their first battle, Shelton selected old school singer Austin Montgomery, 19, to go up against Tanner Fussell, 28, who auditioned with Travis Tritt. He had the two deliver a rendition on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” explaining that he thought the tune would fit both artists, as they each “have this vintage thing about them.”
“I’m glad I’m not singing against y’all,” Allen joked. “You can tell y’all definitely have put time in with your own individual craft as musicians. That’s cool to see.”
During rehearsals, Shelton told Fussell to dial back the grit in his voice, and told Montgomery to loosen up and have fun and show off his personality.
Once onstage, Fussell and Montgomery took turns singing the verses to the classic country hit. Both on guitars, each singer had the live audience roaring with cheers as they effortlessly threw their full energy into the performance. Fussell dug into his lower register and flaunted his Southern rock appeal, while Montgomery used his unique vibrato to his advantage. He also waited until the very end to let out an impressive yodel.
“That was amazing,” Camila Cabello said, applauding their battle and adding that she thought both artists were worthy of moving forward in the competition. “That was like an awards show performance! It was so fun to watch! I’ll be honest, I’m not familiar with this song. At first I was like, ‘Oh this is cool!”
Following Cabello’s comments, Gwen Stefani told the singers that she “was absolutely blown away by that performance.”
“I don’t know if people realize, a character style like this, it’s so hard to do. It felt like I was back in time,” she added.
John Legend called the performance “phenomenal,” adding that Montgomery had “so much potential,” while Fussell transported him to another world.
“This is one of those that’s just tough, guys,” Shelton admitted. “There’s two ways to go here, and they’re both right. But, I think I’ve made my choice.”
Fans, of course, will have to wait to see who Shelton chooses to move on, as the show did not reveal the winner of this Battle Round. Be sure to tune into the next episode of Season 22’s The Voice on Tuesday (Oct. 11) on NBC.