HOT DISH: Female Artists Carry Country’s Traditional Flame

News About Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson, Keith Urban, Martina McBride and More

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

Sara Evans got her turn at bat, and her Real Fine Place knocked Gretchen Wilson’s All Jacked Up out of No. 1 spot on the country albums chart. There’s no telling what will happen next week or the following, but this week, Sara Evans is queen of the country charts. I’ve listened to both of these albums back to back several times.

It’s funny, but lots of people besides me are comparing these two records to Lee Ann Womack’s CMA Award-nominated CD, There’s More Where That Came From. You readers know how crazed I’ve been over Lee Ann’s record since day one. Getting to the nitty gritty, the truth is Gretchen may have relit country’s female flame, influencing Womack, Evans and even Faith Hill’s latest. Whatever and whoever brought country back around, I like it.

Keith Urban: No. 1 Is No. 1
In just 13 weeks, Keith Urban has scored his seventh No. 1 single with “Better Life” and his third chart-topper from his Be Here album. Keith, who was temporarily silenced with a throat problem, got the thumbs-up sign from his doctor and is in England performing for several days.

I read in the local newspaper where Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were kissing and touching over lunch in Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., while he was on voice rest. I wonder if that has anything to do with Keith’s vocal cord hemorrhaging. I mean, the throat doctor ordered no singing, no talking, and people at the restaurant say he was laughing and talking with that skinny Nicole.

Radio Welcomes Back Garth
With four days of airplay, Garth Brooks’ “Good Ride Cowboy,” a tribute to the late Chris LeDoux, has broken his own record with a No. 18 debut on the country singles chart. Back in 1991, Garth’s “The Thunder Rolls” entered the charts at No. 19. His upcoming CD will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. “Good Ride Cowboy,” promoted to radio by Lyric Street Records, ties the record for highest-debuting country single set by Eddie Rabbitt back in 1978 with “Every Which Way but Loose.”

A Note to Louise
I’ve just learned my dear friend Louise Scruggs has been hospitalized. From all of us associated with CMT, we send love and prayers for full recovery for this amazing woman who also answers to the name of Mrs. Earl Scruggs.

Montgomery Gentry Keep Charging Forward
Montgomery Gentry are getting it done the hard way. Remember, Eddie Montgomery fell off a stage in Asheville, N.C., many songs ago. It hurt his pride and broke his wrist and also required surgery and a cast. Partner Troy Gentry went horseback riding and was thrown when the animal got spooked. His badly-broken leg required serious surgery, but he’s worked all summer in a cast — ankle to hip — seated onstage in a barber’s chair. Lesser men would have taken time off, but Crip and Crip kept their hard-charging music going and even charged up the country chart for two consecutive weeks at No. 1 with “Something to Be Proud Of.”

Then they charged over to Concord, N.C., where NASCAR and country music rule. The duo took their show to Lowe’s Motor Speedway as part of the UAW-GM Quality 500 pre-race show. The one-hour concert was on the front stretch of the famed 1.5-mile superspeedway. Rumor has it Montgomery Gentry’s “what you see is what you get” attitude is pretty much the NASCAR guys’ attitude, too. But was the NASCAR race as loud as MG?

Martina’s Timeless
Like Loretta, Dolly, Tammy and Reba, Martina is a one-name star. She is also Mrs. John McBride, mother of daughters Delaney, Emma and Ava. And she has wrapped her vocals around her all-time favorite songs made famous by her all-time favorite singers for her new album, Timeless, that will be released Tuesday (Oct. 18).

She learned “I’ll Be There” from her singing dad and did not know it was a hit by the writer, Ray Price. Martina used Ray Charles’ version as reference for “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Kenny Baker told me he was playing fiddle for Don Gibson when Gibson wrote and recorded the song. Kenny said, “Don wrote the song about that damned little blonde in Knoxville.” Don was living there in a trailer where he also penned “Oh Lonesome Me” on the same day.

“Rose Garden” was a huge record for Lynn Anderson in 1970 and is Martina’s current single. Merle Haggard, second only to Hank Williams as the greatest singer-songwriter who ever lived, inspired Martina to learn “Today I Started Loving You Again.” Martina says she chose to pay homage to Connie Smith because she is such a great singer. Naturally, she chose to record the song that brought Connie to stardom, “Once a Day.”

“Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” is the Harlan Howard song that brought former DJ Charlie Walker from Texas to Nashville. After hearing Walker’s smash single, Ray Price searched out Howard for a hit song. Harlan sent Ray the incredible “Heartaches by the Number,” a song Martina’s dad sang all her life. Dwight Yoakam adds the harmony on Martina’s version. By the way, my late friend Harlan would be sure to remind us Guy Mitchell had a pop hit with the song. And this is the song that took Harlan off the factory forklift and placed him in walking shoes on Music Row. Music Row misses Harlan.

Martina says she loved Hank Snow and loved the way he sang “I Don’t Hurt Anymore.” Her dad introduced Martina to Buddy Holly’s music, hence, her decision to record “True Love Ways.” That brings us to Tammy Wynette’s “’Til I Can Make It on My Own.” Martina claims she could feel Tammy with her in the studio when she sang the song. I believe that. I can almost hear Tammy singing with her.

The great Dolly Parton was Martina’s choice to sing harmony on Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone.” Jeanne Pruett’s “Satin Sheets” was the one song Martina always sang in her dad’s band that she decided to include on the new record. Nobody in the world could have sung “Thanks a Lot” like the great Texas Troubadour, Ernest Tubb. Martina loved E.T. Me, too. A girl from Kansas had to love Buck Owens, and Martina did. As a matter of fact, she said, “When you think of classic country songs, you think of Buck Owens.” It’s no wonder she recorded Buck’s “Love’s Gonna Live Here.” Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” was her grandma’s favorite song. Martina said, “Grandma would sit in her bedroom, comb her hair and sing ’Make the World Go Away.'” Martina recorded the Kris Kristofferson classic, “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” with a more solid country feel than Sammi Smith did in 1970.

The Ryman’s New Neighbor
The big hole beside the historic and hallowed Ryman Auditorium ticks me off royally. Listen fans, if you want a snapshot of this wonderful building in downtown, you better hurry. They’re gonna build a skyscraper next door! I hate it.

Bits & Pieces
More than 3,000 fans turned out at a Wal-Mart store in Gretchen Wilson’s hometown of Pocahontas, Ill., for a recent in-store appearance. Wilson autographed copies of her All Jacked Up CD until the last fan was gone.

Reba McEntire recreated a classic I Love Lucy moment on the cover of TV Guide.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner recognized Ralph Stanley at the National Folk Festival in Richmond with a proclamation in honor of his life and work as a pioneering traditional country music artist. Over 100,000 attended the three-day event.

James Monroe, son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Monroe, plans to open a music hall in Franklin, Ky., in April 2006.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Banana Daiquiri.