HOT DISH: Sara Smiles With Family and Career

Carl Produces a King, Big Fat Actor Sings and Gretchen Gets Even More Attention

(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

Sara: A Well-Planned Female
Sara Evans is almost eight months pregnant, has gained only 18 pounds, has not worn maternity clothes and has no plans to do so. Five weeks from giving birth, she
fully intends to perform at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 31, the same night first lady Laura Bush speaks and the “governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, appears.

She has a son, Avery, who is 5 and a daughter, Olivia, who is 18 months old. If this baby is a boy, he will be Whitaker. No girl’s name has been chosen, but she will probably name her Hazel for her friend, me!

Sara and hubby Craig Schelske have just moved into new digs in Franklin, Tenn. “Perfect for us,” gushed Sara. “Four thousand square feet, four bedrooms, in a cul-de-sac, very private with lots of trees. We also have a home in Oregon near Craig’s folks, and we’ve just bought one we are fixing up in Missouri near Mom.” She added, “That way, the children can spend lots of time with their grandparents. Matter of fact, Craig and Avery just flew out to Oregon to visit his folks. Olivia, the nanny and I leave for Pennsylvania on the bus tonight.”

“What do you want me to tell all the fans at CMT?” I asked.

“Tell the fans my single ’Suds in the Bucket,’ thanks to them and to radio, is doing well,” she said. “My next single from my yet-to-be-titled or completed album is titled ’Tonight.'”

Sara is well planned, except she doesn’t know how she will manage three children on the tour bus.

“Just do,” she reckons.

“Craig and prayer,” I suggested.

“That’s it,” she said.

Just So You Know
I was talking with my good friend, Carl Jackson, who allowed he’s been busier than a set of jumper cables at a country funeral. Carl, who produced the wonderful Grammy-winning Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers, is at it again. This time, he’s working with Shawn King, wife of CNN’s Larry King. I knew Shawn was a country singer before marrying King, and I heard she and Carl just might record some interesting duets. Stay tuned. It’s huge. Huge. Carl promised we’ll get the scoop.

Ain’t the First Time
Actor John Corbett was wonderful in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and as Aidan in Sex and the City. (I barely watched the latter.) When I learned he’d been seen and heard by the oohers and aahers at local watering holes, I figured he’d been singing to himself in the full-length bathroom mirror and was sure he sounded as good as them boys that call themselves country down on Music Row. And, yes, he brought self-penned songs along. And, yes, he found a producer and recorded some tracks. And, yes, he’s getting nibbles from the keepers of deals.

This ain’t the first time Hollywood has come calling. That Burt Reynolds album may still be here. Give ole Burt credit where credit is due, however. He did make movie stars out of our own Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis, Don Williams and the colonel hisself, Merle Kilgore.

Looked Like Brothers
When the Notorious Cherry Bombs a/k/a Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Tony (wow) Brown, et al appeared on the ASCAP Awards a while ago, their attitude was that of brothers, young brothers, on Christmas morning when Santa left what they asked for and were having a ball with it. Miles have left them graying around the edges, smiles left facial lines, and, lo and behold, each has a different wife on their arm, but they are the same ole, good ole boys. Let me ask, since they are hillbilly royalty, can they sing “ass” on the Ryman Stage and on the Grand Ole Opry stage? We will see when they appear on the Opry on Aug. 28 and at their Ryman appearance on Sept. 10. They must perform their big number, “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long.”

Pocahontas Gretchen
Six months ago, she was ready to pack it all up and head back home to Pocahontas, Ill. Last week, Louisville police had to close the entrance to the venue following Gretchen Wilson’s appearance that drew 30,000 fans. The “Redneck Woman” don’t have to go to Pocahontas except to visit. Wouldn’t you know Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes was in town doing a special on the Muzik Mafia with Gretchen and pals Big & Rich.

What’d I Tell You?
Remember, we mentioned that Tim McGraw’s two weeks off midway in his sold-out tour was probably to be by his wife, Faith Hill, while she rehearsed and performed at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. According to the word I got, following Faith’s 90-minute set, she encored with “Let’s Make Love” with Tim. What’d I tell you? I also hear a Vegas tourist magazine asked Faith if her next album would be country or pop. She replied, “I am no longer answering that question.”

Approximately 10 million fans watched Tim’s NBC special in 2002, so he’s going to Green Bay, Wis., on Sept. 1 and Oct. 2 for two concerts that will be incorporated into another NBC special. Stay tuned for the airdate. With Tim’s major acting role with Billy Bob Thornton in the upcoming film, Friday Night Lights, due in theaters Oct. 8, my guess is more than 10 million fans will tune in for his next special. Wow, Tim’s gonna be making Garth money!

Diamond Rio
Diamond Rio are the only group in country music that plays all the instrumentation in the recording studio. The band is that great. Jimmy Olander’s a great guitar player, Dana Williams a great bass player … on and on. Seeing ’em live is living proof. Denver saw Diamond Rio live when the boys joined their pal, newly inducted Pro Football Hall of Fame member John Elway, when he hosted A Game of Games in the Mile High City. Elway and an all-star Broncos team were pitted against Joe Montana, Roger Craig and other NFLers.

Jeff Foxworthy Makes You Laugh Out Loud
Somewhere in Hollywood, there’s somebody counting their millions and giving the bird to the former exec in the pin stripe suit who said, “We cannot sell those clowns!” I am proud and happy to report that Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy are doing TV and doing it their way in Atlanta, where Foxworthy lives with his wife and drives his daughters to school. A failed sitcom with Hollywood instructions convinced Foxworthy to never do that again and to never live there again. Listen, Hollywood thinks we are a bunch of incestuous derelicts with two teeth and a third grade education, and it took Foxworthy to prove urban is urban in all 50 states of America. Blue Collar TV is like real country music — it’s for the working people. Hey, there’s more of us than there is of them. By the way, he’s sold 2.5 million DVDs. The same number of fans bought Gretchen Wilson’s CD. Fans want it. ’Nuff said.

Willie Nelson is joined by Merle Haggard, Toby Keith, Keith Richards and Kid Rock on
his CD Outlaws & Angels. The music was recorded during Willie’s USA Network special over Memorial Day weekend and set for a Sept. 21 release.

Eye See
Eye see where Bering Strait performed with the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra in Kentucky. Is Bering Strait any kin to George Strait? Only kidding.

Alma Mater Visit
Trace Adkins sings the national anthem on Sept. 6 at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech University, where the entire kit and caboodle is so proud of their former Bulldogs linebacker turned country star.

Raised His Guitar
Honky-tonking Mark Chesnutt was the first to raise his guitar when asked who’d come to Fort Meyers, Fla., to benefit the Salvation Army. If you’ve got money, send money. Hurricane Charley took its toll in Florida. Let us pray.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Sweet Potatoes.