HOT DISH: Is Nicole Making Keith Jealous?

More Thoughts on the CMA Awards in New York and Another Johnny Cash Tribute

(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

No matter what language you speak, girlfriend, you are no doubt daydreaming of having your name on some Mr. and Mrs. papers with Keith Urban. No matter which side of the world he happens to be on, he rocks his country music. His electrifying sold-out shows have taken him from his native Australia to the U.S. and Canada and, most recently, he returned to Europe to perform nine shows in 11 days with stops in London, Dublin, Glasgow, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and other cities.

Just prior to departing for Europe, Keith had a scare when he was diagnosed with a hemorrhage on his vocal fold which forced him to cancel the last night on the first leg of his Days Go By tour in the States. (I suspected actress Nicole Kidman’s French kissing was a contributing factor to his throat problem.) Following several days of voice rest, his doctor cleared Keith to travel, and he made the journey to Europe. His U.S. tour resumes Thursday (Nov. 3) in Cleveland.

The multi-platinum selling artist has four CMA nominations this year, and he co-wrote and produced his current No. 1 single, “Better Life.” Whether here, Australia, Canada or Europe, fans know each and every word to all of Keith’s songs and sing along. Keith is an exceptional musician and one of the nicest stars in the hillbilly Milky Way. It’s no wonder that anorexic-looking Nicole has been canoodling with and making eyes at the handsome, multi-talented Keith. Girls, I want to know: Is she woman enough to take our man?

The latest Nicole spotting, according to the New York Daily News, was when Kidman, escorted by her bodyguard, recently went to see Shooter Jennings perform in Towson, Md. Kidman is shooting her latest movie, The Visiting, in the Baltimore/D.C. area. Looking through spy glasses, I see Nicole — like Shooter’s older girlfriend, actress Drea de Matteo — maybe liking younger men. Or perhaps I see Nicole digging country music. Noooo. Nicole is playing that all-time woman game: Making her hillbilly singer boyfriend, Keith Urban, jealous.

CMA Awards
Garth Brooks’ decision to accept the invitation to perform his current hit, “Good Ride Cowboy,” at the CMA Awards show in New York certainly adds tons of credibility to the event. At least the people in New York know who Garth is. Appearing in a tribute to his hero, the late Chris LeDoux, is definitely something Garth would want to do for a friend.

Brooks & Dunn are set to host the CMA Awards in New York. I also see where they’re set to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on the day of the awards show. Listen, no matter how you dress ’em up, those two are country boys, and when you ring a bell in the country, it’s time to eat. Kix and Ronnie will be wanting beans and cornbread when they hear that bell.

So, that country act, Bon Jovi, is gonna sing with that Sugarland girl, and country boy Paul Simon is going to be there with Willie Nelson to present the song of the year trophy. Billy Joel is going to hand out the entertainer of the year trophy with Shania Twain. And HBO’s country bad boy — actor James Gandolfini of The Sopranos — is also going to present an award, sans his gun, I pray!

I’m not going to say much more about the non-country doings, but please let me state that I would personally like it a whole lot better for the awards show to be held in Music City so I could attend. And I’d like it better in New York if the show featured legends like George Jones, Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton and some solid bluegrass and country comedy, like Jeff Foxworthy or Mike Snider. Lastly, FORGET THE RED CARPET! Please, let Joan and Melissa Rivers go play in Times Square during rush hour.

Several of country’s ace performers are set to perform, however. I see where the best all-genre singer on earth is presenting an award. Trisha Yearwood is presenting? Lord knows, Trisha should have a performing spot, and so should the great Patty Loveless, who is not even booked on the show. How can they have Vince Gill present an award and eliminate him from the performing roster? After all, this is New York, and we should strut our best performers.

CMA vice president of marketing — and general good guy — Rick Murray and Aaron Tippin journeyed to Lynchburg, Tenn., recently when the Tip chose the barrel of Jack Daniel’s whiskey that will be bottled and given to performers, presenters and nominees at the awards show. I suggest they give New York Mayor Bloomberg a swig and see if he can pronounce Shania’s name. (Did I ever tell you about a dude from Sydney who called himself Alabama George and sent me a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from Australia? I sent him a note of thanks saying, “Good things always find their way back home.”)

The CMA recently elected new board members, including Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Kix Brooks, Sara Evans and Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry. The remaining board consists of execs from all areas of the music business.

Honoring the Man in Black
I Walk the Line: A Night for Johnny Cash will air Nov. 16 on CBS. Classic Cash songs will be performed by Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Norah Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Kid Rock, Montgomery Gentry and some rockers. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who play Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, in the upcoming movie, Walk the Line, will host the TV show. Shooter Jennings portrays his dad, Waylon, in the movie. I’ve seen it and wholeheartedly recommend the movie big time.

Maybe the folks doing this TV show know more than I do, but it seems to me Rodney Crowell and Marty Stuart belong in a Johnny Cash special. If Cash were still alive, I’m betting he’d agree with me.

Did You Know?
Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts will join Kenny Chesney as performers at the American Music Awards on ABC-TV on Nov. 22.

Toby Keith’s son, Stelen, wrecked his four-wheeler last week and ended up in the hospital. Toby left the set of the movie he’s filming in Atlanta to return to Oklahoma, but he’s back working. Doctor says the boy will be OK. We are sending prayers, big Toby.

Neal and Melinda McCoy celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on Oct. 24.

Lonestar will perform at Storm Aid on Nov. 6 in Baton Rouge, La., with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross.

Montgomery Gentry’s You Do Your Thing has become the duo’s third platinum CD.

Blake Shelton is taking advantage of his favorite time of the year — hunting season.

Bet you didn’t know that Warner Bros. artist Ray Scott, like me, is a Caswell County, N.C., native from a wide place in the road called Semora. Homefolks will be proud to know the label is set to release his album, My Kind of Music, which is also the title of his current single.

With debut sales of 185,174 copies, Martina McBride’s Timeless tops the country albums chart. Congratulations to Martina, who obviously got as much negative advice as positive about this project.

A Personal Note
Congratulations to all the winners at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards show. No other group of musicians works harder for less money in any entertainment genre than bluegrass. The Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, set the work ethic and all who follow do the same — if they last.

In the dictionary, the simple meaning of “emerge” is “come into sight.” For 18 months, I have watched the Grascals come into sight. And during my 35 years on Music Row, I’ve never seen a group work longer hours and try harder than the six guys that make up the Grascals. They produced their self-titled CD on Rounder Records, opened shows for the great Dolly Parton and then, virtually unknown, took off on their own. The emerging artists of the year is the award the Grascals hoped they’d win at the IBMAs, and I prayed they would. They won that, along with song of the year for “Me and John and Paul,” written by one of Nashville’s finest songwriters, Harley Allen.

Yes, the Grascals’ bass player, Terry Smith, is my son. His brother, Billy, and I are so proud of him and the band. After all, we watched Terry learn to play bass at age 6 while standing in a chair.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cheese Ball.