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My Country Holiday Show @ The Paramount, 12.14.11

Lauren Alaina, runner up on the 10th season

Lauren Alaina, runner up on the 10th season of "American Idol," poses for a portrait in New York. (May 31, 2011) Credit: AP

“Is there a country fan in the house?” Jay Letterman, midday DJ at My Country (96.1 FM – WJVC), asked the crowd at the Paramount last night.

Members of the packed crowd responded with a few whoops and more waving of cowboy hats than Long Island has seen in quite some time.

Yes, country music has a following in the area and My Country, which launched in January, was out to celebrate that audience with its holiday party.

It was the kind of show the area doesn't see enough of – and that doesn't even count headliners Neal McCoy and Lauren Alaina.

The party opened with two songwriting circles packed with Nashville up-and-comers. The first round included Wade Bowen, who did well with “Saturday Night,” Brent Anderson, who did “Amy's Song,” and Joanna Smith. The second included Gloriana (who really should have had their own set, considering their string of hits, especially their current single “Kissed You Good Night”) and singer-songwriters Eric Pasley, who played his song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which became a No. 1 hit for Jake Owen, and Brett Eldredge, best known for his hit “Raymond.”

They all performed with only acoustic instruments and their great voices – no flash, just well-crafted songs delivered well.

It's the kind of education that is perfect for 17-year-old Lauren Alaina, this year's “American Idol” runner-up. In her short set pulled from her debut, “Wildflower,” Alaina showed how much she has improved since the show and even the tour that followed.

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She seemed much more at ease as she went from the poignant ballad “Like My Mother Does” to the playful “One of Those Boys” and her voice has only gotten stronger in “Tupelo.”

Headliner Neal McCoy is getting ready for a big 2012, with his upcoming 12th album, “12,” getting produced by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. He sang the album's first single, “A-OK,” which he called “a three-minute smile.” Another new song, “Judge a Man by the Woman,” sort of combines Garth Brooks and Billy Joel for a more dramatic pop-leaning ballad that may come pretty close to what Long Island-inspired country may sound like.

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