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Country a cappella group Home Free won the fourth season of "The Sing Off" in December.
Country a cappella group Home Free won the fourth season of "The Sing Off" in December.

"The Sing Off" champs Home Free bring a cappella to country

Thanks to the combined musical efforts of Straight No Chaser, "Glee" and "Pitch Perfect" (not to mention maybe a bit of nostalgia for the old "Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?" theme song), a cappella music has become a legitimate pop cultural phenomenon.

Oddly enough, however, while pop and a cappella are pretty much intertwined, the Venn diagram of country music and instrument-free crooning has so far included two very separate, non-overlapping circles. That is until the last season of NBC’s "The Sing Off," which saw the Minnesota-based country a cappella quintet Home Free take the stage, and the title, back in December.

Now, just over a month after releasing their first album "Crazy Life," they’re on "The Sing Off" tour with fellow season four competitors VoicePlay and The Filharmonic, as well as season three singers – and Wisconsin natives – The Fannin Family. Before they take The Pabst Theater stage for two shows Thursday night, I talked to Home Free tenor Rob Lundquist about the group’s origins, its time on "The Sing Off," and why country music and a cappella just haven’t gotten along. How did you guys come together?

Rob Lundquist: The group started back in 2000. Chris and Adam (both Rupp) formed the group just out of high school. They were in college at the time. They started off with a few guys, and it just kind of snowballed into a career. They met me about six years ago after I was done with a group called Four Shadow out of Minneapolis that had just broken up. They needed a tenor, so I joined the group.

We met Tim (Foust) about five years ago. We had known about him for a long time. He had been in a bunch of different a cappella groups, so his reputation made it so that we gave him a call to see if he knew of any basses that would be interested. And he said, "Well, I’m not really doing anything right now if you want me?" And we were like, "Yes please."

And then we met Austin (Brown) on a Royal Caribbean cruise …

Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus Christ in "Son of God," now playing.
Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus Christ in "Son of God," now playing.

Blessed art thou who skippeth "Son of God"

"Son of God," the latest cinematic retelling of the saga of Jesus Christ, isn’t based on the much-ballyhooed History Channel miniseries "The Bible." It literally is "The Bible," albeit vigorously edited down from ten hours to 138 minutes with some deleted scenes added in for a bonus. To call "Son of God" a new movie is like a date reheating leftovers and saying he cooked dinner for you, then asking for $10 to cover the cost. And it was Chinese takeout to begin with.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time a TV mini-series has been brought to the big screen. Michael Winterbottom’s "The Trip," most recently, was originally a TV series before it was edited down into a two-hour movie. However, that was originally aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom. "The Bible" was a widely promoted television "event" on a basic cable network, already watched by millions.              

It rings more than a little exploitative to charge audiences – some of whom perhaps going based on a sense of faith-based obligation – $10 to see an extremely condensed version of a film they’ve already seen for free (plus scenes that somehow weren’t worthy of the ten-hour cut), reskinned, retitled and resold as something new.

Also, "The Trip" was a good movie. "Son of God" is not, though it should be commended for accurately recreating the soul-sucking boredom of watching a dull and uninspired ten-hour film into one-fourth the running time. Hmm … "commended" may not be the word I’m looking for.

After sprinting through the Old Testament chapters in a manner that’s only missing a voiceover proclamation of "Previously on ‘The Bible,’" "Son of God" dives into, well, the son of God, played by handsome Portuguese soap opera actor Diogo Morgado. He’s first seen emerging from a desert via an attempt at an epic "Lord of the Rings"-esque helicopter shot, ready to find some followers.

What ensues is pretty much a clunky, disconnected highlight reel of Jesus’ story. Fish a…

The Academy finally starts handing out the awards Sunday night.
The Academy finally starts handing out the awards Sunday night. (Photo:

Matt's picks for who will win - and should win - at the 2014 Oscars

We are just on the outskirts of 24 hours before the Academy Awards finally begin, so I suppose that makes it about time to grab a ballot and actually start making some picks. I went 19 for 24 in my picks last year, so hopefully I can continue to not embarrass myself. It’s one of the closest competitions in years, so we'll see. Be sure to make your own picks and follow along Sunday night. 

Best Picture

Will Win: "12 Years a Slave"

Should Win: "12 Years a Slave"

The buzz for "American Hustle" had a nice month, but the high from all of the hairspray seems to have worn off. "Gravity" could pull an upset for its pure cinematic spectacle of the highest order, but this has been "12 Years a Slave’s" Oscar to lose ever since it premiered. Even with the talk of it being too difficult to win, McQueen’s film is too powerful, too artful – and for some, too significant – to vote against.

If "American Hustle" or "Gravity" were up against "12 Years" one-on-one, I could see one of them pulling the upset. But for those looking for something lighter and more entertaining to give their nod, the vote will be split between the ABSCAM period piece and Bullock’s adventures in space, giving "12 Years" the win.

Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

The McConaissance reaches its apex Sunday night. McConaughey gives a great performance in "Dallas Buyers Club," and not only that, it’s the kind of physically transformative performance that the Academy loves more than they love themselves (a tough feat). His rom-com bum to esteemed in-demand actor narrative is just too tempting to pass up.

His only real competition is Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave." He’s terrific in it, and I originally had him in my "Should Win" spot … but then I remembered Leo. Poor, poor Leo. In the past two years, he’s delivered the two best performances of his career so far – his charismatic and comedic powerhou…