Jimmie Allen and ‘American Idol’s’ Cecil Ray Join Forces For ‘Freedom Was A Highway’ Duet

ABC’s American Idol returned on Sunday evening (April 4) with an exciting round of celebrity duets, featuring a number of…


Lauren Jo Black

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April 4, 2021


9:38 pm

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Jimmie Allen and Cecil Ray

ABC’s American Idol returned on Sunday evening (April 4) with an exciting round of celebrity duets, featuring a number of superstar artists including Brian McKnight, Ryan Tedder and Jewel. 

Country hitmaker Jimmie Allen also guest starred on the show, which marked a full-circle moment for the chart-topping singer, who previously appeared on the talent competition in 2011. 

Allen was on-hand to duet with top 24 contestant Cecil Ray, who previously took the stage for a solo performance of Tracy Lawrence’s “Paint Me A Birmingham.” Allen said that they “immediately connected” and that he was more than happy to offer him advice throughout his career. 

“I look at you and I see me,” Allen shared. 

“Honestly man, you’re an inspiration to me,” Ray told him. 

“I’m here because someone decided to help me, and if I can be that for Cecil, I’m down for it,” Allen, who also offered Ray his personal phone number, added. 

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Ray and the country superstar performed a duet of Allen and Brad Paisley’s current radio single, “Freedom Was A Highway,” from Allen’s collaborative EP, Bettie James

“Jimmie’s going to have a good year, I feel it,” Ryan Seacrest said. 

Ray’s performance drew some criticisms from the judges, however. 

“Cecil, you’re the underdog here. You know the movie about the underdog? They’ve got to take that turn at one point, so you need to start taking that turn. You need to start rolling the dice because it was okay for the solo performance, but you were really in your head.” Perry explained. “Then, the duet you are a lot more natural. Like you’ve got limbs, you’ve got to use them at some point. I think everyone wants to root for you but you’ve got to root for yourself. Just give it a little bit more, come on!”

Luke Bryan cautioned that the competition will only get more fierce from here on out and challenged him to do better. 

“You kind of got swallowed up a little bit,” Bryand shared. “There was just some pitch problems that I’ve never heard from you and I don’t know if it’s just because of the crazy room and the band and lights and camera and action. If America gets you through just understand man, it’s going to get harder every round and you’re going to have to be on point every round.”

“I just saw myself on stage about a hundred years ago,” Richie added. “So, it’s stage presence and attitude, your hand got stuck in your pocket and you haven’t pulled it out yet. In other words, there’s a comfort zone, I would like to sing like this but I can’t. So, what I’m saying is attitude is what we need now.”

“They’re rooting for you Cecil Ray,” Seacrest added.

Fans can vote for Cecil Ray by using the official American Idol app, visiting AmericanIdol.com/vote or by texting 10 to 21523. Please note, fans can vote 10 times, per contestant, per voting method.

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Lauren Jo Black

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Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.