American Idol: An Air Force Singer and 'Chipmunk' Country Crooner Soar

American Idol: An Air Force Singer and 'Chipmunk' Country Crooner Soar
Ryan Seacrest (left) and Harry Connick Jr.
Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP

01/31/2014 AT 07:45 AM EST

The final tickets to Hollywood were handed out on Thursday's American Idol, and the last singer to book a seat on the plane reminded Harry Connick Jr. of … Barbara Mandrell?

Referring to the popular '70s and '80s country singer and TV star, Connick told Tessa Kate, a 25-year-old from Branson, Mo., that she had the same timeless "vibe."

Kate sang "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash and although Jennifer Lopez said the guitar-playing performer "almost went into chipmunk territory" with her high-pitched notes, Keith Urban said, "You've got your own lane."





Air Force band specialist Paula Hunt, 20, certainly had her own lane. Singing an elegant, natural version of Etta James's "All I Could Do Was Cry," Hunt did just that after earning a golden ticket and sharing the emotional story of her mother's diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, which robbed her of her voice.

"She didn't get to do this, so I’m here for her," a teary Hunt told the judges. "I get to finish what she started."

"You just made her real proud," said Connick.

"I'm so proud of my baby," her mother said. "I can't sing anymore … my children sing for me."



And 21-year-old Quaid Edwards sang for his mom, too.

"I feel like I'm rekindling her dream," the University of Nebraska senior said about his mother, Jolie Edwards, former lead singer of the country band Jolie & the Wanted, which used to play alongside Urban.



"Long time, no see," the young Edwards said to Urban upon entering the audition room.

Edwards sang "A Change Is Gonna Come," and Connick was hard on him at first saying, "You're cute, and girls are gonna love you [but] if you want to be a great singer, you're headed in the wrong direction."

But Connick felt the still-green singer had the goods, quipping, "I like that shade of green," which led to a ticket to Hollywood and an impromptu reunion between Urban and Edwards's mother.

In all, 21 singers from the Omaha auditions were put through by the judges, leaving a grand total of 212 contenders to duke it out starting next Wednesday in the always stressful, always entertaining Hollywood Week.

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