HOT DISH: Reese Witherspoon’s Southern Charm Shines Through

Urban Gives Away His Stage, Chesney Selling Part of His Island Property

(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

Reese Witherspoon is my hero. She had more charm, class and all-American beauty than any other actress who smiled for the cameras at last week’s Academy Awards show. Her winning speech, made Nashville, Tennessee, country music and all who love the memory of John and June Carter Cash proud.

She earned the statue because she was the best actress. Her portrayal nailed June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. I’m so sorry Joaquin Phoenix did not win for his role as Johnny Cash. As I watched the film, there are times when I’d think he was Johnny, especially when he’d sing. He did a good job. It’s a shame an Oscar isn’t his.

When I heard music’s most valuable player, Dolly Parton, sing her marvelous song, “Travelin’ Thru,” from Transamerica, I gave up any hope of this multi-talented, good-hearted woman reeling in an Oscar. Hollywood and those in charge are not about to allow a country girl to win the award when they sing about Jesus. Lord knows, the powers that be and the Academy voters prefer rappers chanting “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” Frankly, I hope it gets harder.

Of course, all of us saw skinny Nicole Kidman walk the red carpet alone. Her honey, Keith Urban, walked it alone, too. And while she presented George Clooney the best supporting actor award, Urban looked on from the audience. Nobody seems to know what’s on the agenda for Urban. When he performed the final concert of his Still Alive ’06 tour in Tallahassee, Fla., his crew tore down the stage, sawed it up and doled it out piece by piece to fans for souvenirs while Keith kept right on singing for more than two hours. What’s next? If anybody knows, they ain’t saying. Some people seem to think a wedding may be imminent.

When legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman played excerpts from the nominated film scores during the Academy Awards telecast, I was reminded of the time he and Bill Monroe received awards at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Upon returning to Nashville, Bill stopped by my house for supper. Quieter than usual, I asked what was wrong.

After a few minutes, Bill turned a little red, cleared his throat and said, “I don’t know why in the world they honored that fiddle player — that Perlman. Why, he didn’t know enough fiddle to take a break on ’Blue Moon of Kentucky.'”

ACM Announcements
The Academy of Country Music’s 2006 awards show will be held May 23 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Nominees were announced live Wednesday (March 8) from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on CBS-TV’s The Early Show by co-host Hannah Storm and Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts.

Underwood and Rascal Flatts walked away with four nominations each. She’s nominated for top female vocalist and top new female vocalist, and she’s also up for single and song of the year for “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Rascal Flatts smiled over their nominations for entertainer of the year, top vocal group, album of the year for Feels Like Today and song of the year for “Skin (Sarabeth).”

Up for the most awards — a total of six — Brad Paisley is slowly, surely and consistently becoming a superstar. I am surprised Brad didn’t get a nod for entertainer of the year. Nobody on that list, except Keith Urban, can play a guitar like Brad, who’s up for top male vocalist and album, single and song of the year. He and Dolly are in the vocal event and video of the year category for “When I Get Where I’m Going.”

Take note songwriters: Three song of the year nominations — “When I Get Where I’m Going,” “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe” — are message songs.

Indie artists making the ACM list: Equity Records’ Little Big Town (top vocal group and top new duo or vocal group) and Broken Bow’s Jason Aldean and Craig Morgan (both nominated for top new male vocalist). Good for them.

I was happy to see Dierks Bentley make the top male vocalist list for the first time. Naturally, Dierks was traveling on the hillbilly highway when he learned he was nominated, so he detoured his tour bus through Athens, Ga., to surprise his brother, Fife Bentley, who lives at the Lambda Chi fraternity house at the University of Georgia. For free beer, Dierks entertained 400 college guys.

I’m disappointed that Trace Adkins and his entertaining “Badonkadonk” failed to be nominated.

More Notes
Is Kenny Chesney selling the three acre tract in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands where his bare feet stood in the sand last May to wed Renee Zellweger? The St. John Tradewinds newspaper reports he bought the beach front property in 2004 for $5 million. Today’s asking price? $11 million! The newspaper also reports that, through a holding company, Kenny owns several houses in the area. Lord, there ain’t nothing like a hillbilly with money. Kenny’s got an airplane. Surely he will fly us down there.

SHeDAISY’s Kelsi Osborn is expecting twins. Kelsi’s been married eight years. Maybe God is just making up for lost time and giving her two at a time.

Following the simple December ceremony that made Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood man and wife, I’ve learned there was another simple yet sweet ceremony between Trisha and Garth’s three daughters. Trisha presented each of the children a ring. And everyone cried.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul 2 Soul II tour is the fastest selling concert event of the year.

Toby Keith is the latest artist to grace the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame in Connecticut. Tim McGraw was first in 2004, followed by Alan Jackson and Rod Stewart in 2005.

Producers of the upcoming film, Kentucky Bluebird, are looking for someone who can sing both country and bluegrass to play the lead role of Keith Whitley. I don’t believe God created but one of them.

Precious Memories, Alan Jackson’s gospel CD, debuted at the top of the country albums chart and entered Billboard’s pop chart at a very respectable No. 4.

According to A&R wizard Doug Howard, Trent Tomlinson released his debut album, Country Is My Rock, this past week on Lyric Street Records. Trent co-wrote the songs and co-produced the album with partners Leigh Reynolds and HillBilly. Wanna know who HillBilly is? Daniel Hill and Billy Lynn — and that’s as hillbilly as you can get.

I’m so impressed by the cities where Martina McBride’s concerts are selling out — places like Chicago, New York, Kansas City and other cities in Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts and New York. Not one Southern stop!

I’m hearing that Gretchen Wilson has split with her longtime beau, the father of their daughter Gracie. I’m told he has moved out of her 4,000-square-foot house, but that Gretchen’s mom, aunt and uncle have places on her acreage.

Dr. Hazel’s orders: Do not allow Sara Evans to sing until she is totally healed from bronchitis. We need to preserve her beautiful voice, and she needs not use it until it is safe. Stars are human and need to rest and need to heal when they are sick. End of sermon.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Banana Nut Bread.