HOT DISH: Catching Up With Dierks Bentley

Reba Keeps Breaking Things, Alan and Martina Hit the Road Again

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Talking with that cute Dierks Bentley, I learned he is a busy boy. Played 106 dates so far in 2004 — with 102 more left on the books — but he’s not complaining. He loves it. Loved opening shows for George Strait and could not say enough about the Strait man. They played a bunch of sold-out shows in Canada and the states, including Cheyenne Frontier Days. Dierks not only watched every show George did, he watched every soundcheck.

“I’m amazed to be on the same stage with George Strait,” he said. “He’s such a class act, treats his fans well. George bridges the gap between the old and new. Nobody does it better than Strait. He’ll sing a Hank song, a Waylon song, a Webb Pierce song, a Cash song between his hits. And you know, his wife Norma is amazing. She watches every performance. Says she still enjoys the shows.”

Dierks was leaving for a show in Philadelphia, Miss., when we spoke. “Up in Eau Claire, Wis., the other night, I had 45 minutes to sign autographs, and the line at the merchandise table was already too long for me to get to everybody.” He declared, “It amazes me. I love the fans.”

Dierks got to Music City in 1995 and was so turned off by the music of the day, he started going to the Station Inn every Tuesday night to hear the Sidemen, a bunch of “better ‘n average” bluegrass pickers who moonlight at the club when they’re off the road. “For five years, I went every Tuesday night,” he laughed. “I like variety. I love playing for college kids. After the 20,000 George Strait sellout in Memphis, me and my band bolted to Oxford, Miss., and played a frat party from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Loved it.”

More than anything, Dierks wants radio hits. I’ve seen nothing but outstanding reviews on his road shows. Strangers seeing him for the first time call him a superstar. He’s working hard on his career.

He didn’t say, but the bachelor sounded to me like he’s more interested in his career than anything else. “It’s impossible to work on your career and a relationship at the same time,” Dierks quipped.

His favorite food is Mexican. His all-time favorite song is “The Door” by George Jones. He loves the Possum, Hag and Strait, but his all-time favorite singer is Alison Krauss.

“She’s amazing, young, beautiful,” Dierks offered before departing for the concert. “If I were alone on a desert island, I’d want her music.”

Named the ACM’s top new artist of the year, Dierks’ biggest hit so far is “What Was I Thinkin’,” but he’s climbing the chart with his current single, “How Am I Doin’.” He’ll be recording his second album in September between road gigs.

Reba Breaks Another Record
Reba broke calves on her dad’s ranch in Oklahoma, broke attendance records with her tours, broke records in the Big Apple when she starred in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway and broke records with the WB sitcom that bears her name. And now she’s broken a Billboard record.

The feisty redheaded Okie broke the record for the longest span of No. 1 hits by a female country artist. Her first No. 1, “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” topped the chart on Jan. 8, 1983, and her 22nd No. 1, “Somebody,” climbed to the top 21 years and 7 months later on July 26, 2004. Said Reba, “I am thrilled to have a No. 1 song, and I am equally thrilled to call country radio my family. I enjoy all the places my career has taken me, but country music is and always will be my home.”

Martina & A.J.
I see where the long-legged wonder, Mr. Alan Jackson, and the lovely Martina McBride will hit the road again beginning Thursday (Aug. 5) in Boise, Idaho, for 29 more concerts. The duo sold over 450,000 tickets during their spring concert tour.

Martina celebrating her 38th birthday this week reminded me how lucky those of us with families are to have acts like her and Alan. It’s safe to take children and grandchildren to an Alan/Martina concert. Besides being class acts and great singers, they don’t swear, drink, do drugs or show body parts. The latter is a rarity on some stages these days.

Here’s Why
Why was the street blocked off one recent morning in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame?
In preparation for a deluge of fans out to get autographs from ABC-TV soap stars.

Why is Chely Wright cleaning someone’s house?
Well, it’s an auction to benefit Nashville’s Leadership Music. The highest bidder gets their house cleaned by Ms. Wright and pals. Men dream of this.

Why was Billy Ray Cyrus visiting the Nashville club called the Basement?
He was singing, silly.

Why did Dolly Parton cook liver and onions last week?
It was her hubby Carl Dean’s birthday, and that’s what he wanted.

Why has Reba been burning up the phone lines from Hollywood to Music City talking to Dolly?
She wants Dolly to guest on her hit TV show, Reba.

Why was Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie hospitalized recently?
She gave birth to her second son, Beckett Finn Pasdar. Her son, Slade, is 3 years old. I, for one, would surely like to hear Natalie vocalize again!

Why is Jimmy Buffett all smiles these days?
He just celebrated his very first No. 1 album, License To Chill, on both the country and pop charts. And it’s no wonder — with guests like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride. For a dude that’s been around for more than 25 years, Buffett ain’t looking back. The CD sold 238,597 copies in its first week, pushing him halfway to the gold level. I do believe this is Buffett’s second coming.

Why did Chalee Tennison visit Tikrit, Iraq?
Certainly not because it is Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Chalee went to sing for the troops. And she did.

Why are the Jenkins all smiles?
Because these days their harmonies are being compared to the Dixie Chicks.

Why is Terri Clark celebrating a 10-year anniversary?
That’s how long the gal with the hattitude has been in Music City, so she calls her new CD Greatest Hits 1994-2004. Cute ‘n’ clever, huh?

Down the Road
Since Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and Tony (wow) Brown resurrected the Notorious Cherry Bombs, proving they still can get on the charts, it makes me wonder if we need a new chart for newcomers. Newcomers like: Amber Dotson, Amy Dalley, Rachel Proctor, Trent Willmon, Julie Roberts, Ryan Tyler, Sugarland, Christy Sutherland, Memarie, Blue County, Katrina Elam, Catherine Britt, John Stone and Shelly Fairchild. That whole slew could take up 14 slots!

Hank Jr.’s Heartfelt Show
Hank Williams Jr., known for performing killer shows, came real close to having one in L.A. at the Pacific Amphitheater. During an acoustic set of songs written by his dad, Hank Williams Sr., a fan named Jason Williams had a heart attack while seated in the fourth row. Not to worry: They restarted the man’s heart onstage — the same stage where Hank had just sung “Your Cheating Heart.” After being rushed to the hospital, Jason was taken off a respirator two days later. Doctors look for a full recovery.

See this week’s Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Hazel’s Chutney.