I think the pickings are pretty slim for America’s Got Talent this year, but there are a few acts I’ve enjoyed. There’s a popera trio named Forte who’s easy on the eyes and reminds me of Il Divo. There’s a teenage magician who’s as good a showman as he is a magician. Perhaps most impressive is Anna Christine, a 10-year-old girl with an old soul who sang and played “House of the Rising Sun.” Let’s also not forget the black guy who came out and sang like… well I won’t spoil the surprise, but watch his audition here, and stick around after the performance for a great extra “Awwwww” moment.
However, as soon as I saw the audition I’m sharing with you today, I knew I’d instantly found a new favorite. The singer is Jimmy Rose. This video gives you some background about his life as a coal miner in Kentucky, then choosing to serve in the Marine Corps for four years. He is now 32, pursuing his dream of becoming a country singer. But he’s not just another country singer. He’s a singer/songwriter, and for this audition, he made the daring choice of performing an original song dedicated to the coal miners of his hometown. It’s called “Coal Kept the Lights On.” And I have to tell you, I was stunned and choking back tears throughout. This is vintage country songwriting at its finest, recalling Loretta Lynn’s iconic “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It’s amazing that a young man with no college education could produce something this well crafted. He obviously possesses a lot of natural talent, and he’s simply using it to write about what he knows. (As people have pointed out, it’s also well-timed considering some asinine new Obama legislation that is wiping out jobs in the coal business. Remind me again how the Democrats are the party of the little guy.)
Whatever this young singer’s future holds, I hope that his heart and his authenticity will be preserved. I also hope he gets a new haircut. Meanwhile, watch this audition and thank God for men like Jimmy Rose. You also have my permission to direct a few imprecatory Psalms in President Obama’s direction while you’re at it. Lyrics for the song are here, and they include a verse cut from this performance that addresses Washington a little more pointedly. Lyrically it also reminds me of Billy Joel’s ode to the Long Island fishermen in “Downeaster Alexa,” with the difference that Joel was writing from the outside looking in and Rose has actually lived what he sings about.
[Note: In the judges' comments, Howard says "That was a d--n good song," a statement with which I heartily concur, but if you don't want to hear him say it, you can hit pause after the actual performance.]