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Morgan Wallen cover makes Ala. firefighter ‘an absolute standout’ on ‘The Voice’

Auburn Firefighter Ducote Talmage sang “Sand in My Boots” during the blind auditions, landing him a spot on a team led by Dan & Shay

By Mary Colurso

AUBURN, Ala. — Got twang? Ducote Talmage does, along with a strong singing voice and a fondness for country music.

Talmage, 20, used all three qualities to nab a spot on “The Voice” during Season 25, joining a team led by Dan & Shay. The Auburn firefighter sang Morgan Wallen’s “Sand in My Boots” during Blind Auditions on the NBC reality series, impressing the Nashville hitmakers with his rendition.

Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney gave Talmage a standing ovation after his performance on Monday’s episode, and so did R&B star John Legend . In fact, the three coaches engaged in a playful tussle — verbally, of course — as they tried to coax Talmage onto their teams. (Dan & Shay coach a single team on the show.)

“What I love the most about your voice is just that little scratch in it,” Legend said. “It’s such a cool tone. It’s breathy. It’s just a lovely voice to listen to. And I know I can be a great coach for you, even if I didn’t grow up listening to country music. I do know what a great song is and I do know how to help you plan a great performance .... Team Legend: It’s not the traditional choice, it’s not the obvious choice, but it’s an excellent choice.”

At this point, Dan & Shay interjected with, “It’s not the right choice!” The two added some humorous trash-talk aimed at Legend — emphasizing their country bona fides, hits and awards — and name-checked Wallen and Carrie Underwood as friends. Legend took it all in stride, smiling as he noted that he’d won a CMT Award with Underwood in 2021 for “Hallelujah.”

Dan & Shay were undeterred. “Honestly, we have no one like you (on our team) and you would be an absolute standout, I promise you that,” Shay Mooney said.

“Man, your voice sounds like it should be on country radio right now,” Dan Smyers said. “It was incredible. Then you really opened up. You’ve got a lot of power to your voice, man.”

Two other celebrity coaches on “The Voice,” Reba McEntire and Chance the Rapper, were not as enthusiastic, noting that Talmage had some pitch problems during his performance. But they welcomed him to show nevertheless. (”I think you’re really, really funny, so I think you should lean on that,” Chance said.)

In the end, Talmage decided to join Dan & Shay’s team, prompting the duo to yell, “That’s what I’m talking about!” and “That’s our guy!” They presented Talmage with a team jacket and gave him joyful hugs.

“His performance was amazing,” Dan Smyers said. “That was exactly what we were looking for, somebody with that country twang.”

Talmage joins two other Alabama singers who’ll be competing on “The Voice” this season: Asher HaVon of Selma and Rivers Grayson of Muscle Shoals. HaVon is on Team Reba and Grayson is on Team Legend. Both singers were featured on a previous episode that featured Blind Auditions for Season 25.

Blind Auditions continue on “The Voice” through Tuesday, then the series moves on to the Battles. In that phase of the competition, singers perform duets with other contestants on their teams, vying to keep their spots on the show.

Here’s Talmage’s bio on Season 25 of “The Voice”:

“Ducote, the youngest of seven, grew up in a family that embraced outdoor activities like mud play, ATV riding, fishing and camping. Singing around the campfire with his dad playing various instruments, Ducote formed a band with his brothers and performed at local events. While pursuing a career as a firefighter, which covers his school expenses, he also nurtures his passion for music and aviation. He balances his education with performing solo gigs and booking gigs for weddings and parties. Ducote faces the challenge of choosing between his firefighting career and wholeheartedly pursuing music.”

Alabama’s never had a winner on “The Voice” during its 13-year history on television. However, more than 30 contestants from the state have made their marks on the show over the years, starting with Nakia Reynoso in Season 1 and continuing through spring 2023 with four — count ‘em, four — Alabama singers moving through the competition in Season 23.

D. Smooth, an R&B singer from Birmingham, took third place on “The Voice” during the Season 23 finals in May 2023. Three other Alabama contestants — Ryley Tate Wilson, Jerome Godwin III and JB Somers — were eliminated earlier in the season.

If you watch: “The Voice” airs at 7 p.m. CT on Mondays and 8 p.m. on Tuesdays on NBC. The series also streams on Peacock.

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