HOT DISH: Lee Ann Womack Plans Her Summer Vacation

Singer Follows Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan and Others Into Iraq

(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 CMT.com.)

Lee Ann Womack will be at the CMA Music Festival for her fan club party on June 8, and she’s already making plans with her fans. Read on.

Lee Ann will spend her summer vacation entertaining our armed forces overseas. She’ll first travel to Germany to visit a military hospital where they air-flight the injured from Iraq. Then it’s off to Italy where Lee Ann will perform for troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. She has teamed up with Anysoldier.com to collect and provide gift packages for troops who are deployed. And she’ll be collecting those items during her fan club party.

Lee Ann, Lorrie Morgan, Carrie Underwood and Danielle Peck were the featured stars during a March 18 segment of the Grand Ole Opry. While I was seated on the side of the Opry stage, Lee Ann waved, then bolted over and said, “This weekend, I’m making your recipe of banana nut bread that I got off CMT.com.

Hey CMT, stars read us … and the stars cook, too.

Montgomery Gentry … Been There
Fresh from an incredible USO tour to entertain troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Germany, the hard-working duo of Montgomery Gentry ain’t ashamed to wave the red, white and blue on every side of the ocean.

Craig Morgan … Honored for Being There
Craig Morgan received the 2006 USO Merit Award from the USO of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., last week. He was honored for his work in fundraising and donating his time to many charitable organizations. An Army veteran, Morgan is a passionate supporter of the military. In 2005, he traveled to Iraq for the USO’s holiday tour and has performed at many other USO events. Morgan also performed at last year’s kickoff to the Pentagon’s concert series hosted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Brooks & Dunn Break a Record
It takes hillbillies to get it done. I’m talking about breaking the attendance record at RodeoHouston. I do not know who let in Hilary Duff in 2005, but they saw 72,843 children pass through the turnstiles. Let me tell you, 72,867 cowboys, cowgirls and all manner of adults helped Brooks & Dunn break the attendance record on March 18.

Magic Martina
I always tell radio listeners they can carry their children to a Martina McBride concert. Martina is beautiful, doesn’t swear and is never obscene onstage. She is, first and foremost, a mother. Take your kids, I say.

Further proving her kindness, Martina recently made a special visit to Haven House, a domestic abuse shelter in Buffalo, N.Y. Martina learned about the facility through correspondence from an executive at the shelter. Director Katey Joyce says Martina’s songs like “Concrete Angel,” “Broken Wing” and, of course, “Independence Day” are her personal anthems for the work she does. I just say that Martina performs magic.

Seen and Heard
Our prayers go out to Hilary and Holly Williams, who survived a car crash south of Memphis, Tenn., on March 15. Holly’s out of the hospital, but Hilary required additional surgery. Also send prayers for their daddy, Hank Williams Jr. And let’s thank our maker for the two angels who found the sisters at the accident scene and prayed over them until help arrived.

On March 16, sweet Kenny Chesney was in Evansville, Ind., where he was rehearsing with his band. The following day was the fifth wedding anniversary of his best friends, Mr. and Mrs. Peyton Manning. The Mannings were celebrating the milestone over dinner in Nashville. Being a jetsetter, Kenny hopped aboard his Learjet and headed to Music Town just to surprise them. To make the evening perfect, Kenny sang them “Me and You,” the same song he sang at their wedding.

Mark Twain wrote, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Shania Twain wrote “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” The Twains never met.

Phil Vassar will headline the Country Music Marathon postrace concert in Nashville on April 29.

Bandit recording artist George Jones will record “He Still Has Songs to Sing” for Category 5 Records when the label features a bevy of popsters doing a tribute album to him. The whole world loves the Possum and knows he is the greatest singer who’s ever lived.

Wynonna has lost 20 plus pounds and is happier than ever following her 40-plus days at a wellness center in Texas for those who suffer from compulsive disorders such as overeating.

Wrangler is sponsoring Jamey Johnson and Rhett Akins on a two-month tour already in progress. The tour ends May 21 in Detroit.

Nashville awaits the Keith Urban/Nicole Kidman wedding in June — if it actually happens. When I asked Garth Brooks what he thought about Keith and Nicole, the ever-diplomatic Garth replied, “They are two real pretty people. Thin, too!”

Willie Nelson will break ground on a new biodiesel refinery, Pacific Biodiesel Texas, adjacent to Carl’s Corner Truck Stop in Carl’s Corner, Texas. The refinery will process various feed stocks — starting mainly with cottonseed oil — into a renewable fuel source for diesel engines. I hope I live to see the day I can pass all the gasoline-powered vehicles like they are standing still while I drive a new car with biodiesel in the tank.

Promoting his new greatest hits album and a TV special, Tim McGraw is set for a Today appearance Friday (March 31) and a stop at The Ellen DeGeneres Show on April 4. Listen for “When the Stars Go Blue.”

Rascal Flatts are on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Thursday (March 30), Good Morning America on April 4 and The View on April 5 to promote their new album, Me and My Gang.

Well looky here. Trace Adkins and Gretchen Wilson will be on the road together for the second leg of the Redneck Revolution tour. This co-headlining venture will fill seats, and young Blaine Larsen will add some spice to the sugar.

Blake Shelton was in Tallahassee, Fla., to open the show for Rascal Flatts. When lead singer Gary LeVox could not sing above a whisper, the show was canceled, but enterprising Blake told his road manager to find a venue and contact the local media. In less than five hours, a nightspot called the Moon was bursting at the seams with more than 1,000 country fans showing up for the impromptu concert.

Tracy Lawrence’s homecoming on May 6 in Texarkana, Ark., will also feature Neal McCoy as a special guest. Does this mean Tracy is thinking about signing with McCoy’s record label, 903 Records? Darryl Worley signed there.

Dierks Bentley parked his bus outside a club in Syracuse, N.Y., and promised the bartender he’d be back after his concert at a venue across the street. I’m sure the bartender thought that was the last he’d see of Dierks. Good as his word, though, Dierks and his band piled into the club after the big concert and played a 25-minute set. I hear Jake is not on the road with Dierks these days. Ten guys and a dog is too much on a tour bus, so Dierks is leaving Jake at home.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Stuffed Cabbage.