HOT DISH: Some Country Music Questions for 2007

More News on Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Other Country Stars

(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

You know what I really want to know? Here’s what’s on my mind as we ease into 2007:

Where is Joe Nichols on the charts?

Will Jason Michael Carroll’s debut hit, “Allysa Lies,” make him a household word?

What about Carrie Underwood? Has she chosen material for her all-important sophomore project?

Are the other two self-penned songs on Martina McBride’s upcoming self-produced CD, Waking Up Laughing, as great as her current co-written smash, “Anyway”?

Will Alison Krauss record a gospel record?

How will Brad Paisley find time to write songs, tour, record, practice guitar, draw cartoons and handle his duties as a new daddy?

Yes, he loves his fans, but will Kenny Chesney focus more on the music and less on the islands — and will he find a special her by the time he hits the NFL stadiums this summer?

Thank God, Keith Urban is reportedly healed and happy, but will rehab hurt or help his career? Country fans are loving, loyal and forgiving.

Will Trace Adkins finally get the awards he deserves? And will Trace and Craig Morgan continue as best friends during their tour this year?

Will Toby Keith keep on keeping on — writing and singing a string of hits?

Are Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s songs so good that they can keep up the momentum of their 2006 tour gross of $88 million?

Will Kellie Pickler become the star she so deserves to be?

Will Bucky Covington take root and grow?

Can Rascal Flatts maintain their celebrity and continue to fill venues?

Will Dierks Bentley catapult to the top and become the headliner who’s selling out concerts at football stadiums?

Is Sara Evans holding her own on the charts and on the road?

Will indie act Jason Aldean, who has sold 850,000 copies of his debut CD, keep plowing away and heading toward mainstream?

After 17 years, are Brooks & Dunn still smart enough to know the secret?

What is the secret? It is — and has always been — a great song.

Don’t Mess With Dierks Bentley’s Friends
There’s not a better dude or truer friend in country music than Dierks Bentley. When Dierks read where some smarty journalist referred to Kenny Chesney as “Mr. Zellweger” in a concert review, Dierks grabbed the phone and refused to stop until he had a few choice words with the guy and his editor. That’s what friends are for.

Craig Morgan Stops Racing
Remember last year when Craig Morgan broke his leg during a long distance motorcycle race? A man who pulled 10 hard years as a paratrooper, Morgan has a wife and five kids who love him. But before the broken leg heals, he breaks it again racing the cycle. However, maybe he’s decided to slow down.

“Look at this,” Craig said as he showed me a color picture of a handsome lad — grinning and muddy.

Craig quit racing because his 15-year-old son got to be a better competitor. Not to worry, Craig still rides, and so does his lovely wife who assured me she’s getting in shape for a marathon coming up in April. Yep, the pretty Mrs. Morgan is a rider and a runner.

Carrie Underwood and Idol Chatter
Did you know American Idol is the most watched show on TV? I watched both nights last week, and not only did I see the worst bunch of talent ever, I failed to see one country singer audition. Hello! Has nobody heard of Carrie Underwood, the 2005 Idol winner who has sold almost 5 million copies of her debut album?

Carrie was honored Wednesday (Jan. 17) with two parties at ASCAP honoring the writers of “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” (Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace and Morgane Hayes) and “Before He Cheats” ( Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins).

Carrie denies the rumor that she’s dating Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. She admits she’s lost weight — down to 110 pounds — and plans to perform on the Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles on Feb. 11.

Imus Welcomes Montgomery Gentry
Nashville and the country music community flat-out owe nationally syndicated radio host Don Imus. I got up before the crack of dawn Tuesday (Jan. 16) to watch Montgomery Gentry on MSNBC’s simulcast of Imus in the Morning. I’m here to tell you, it was way before sunup on the coldest day of 2007 — and those guys were hot as a pistol. All I can say is thank God for Don Imus, the one token hillbilly music lover in New York City. Imus knew the music of Eddie and Troy as well as they did, and he treated MG with total respect.

Wilburn Brothers’ Continuing Legacy
For over a half century, the Wilburn family’s name has been widely respected in country music. There were Teddy and Doyle, their older brothers Leslie and Lester and their sister Geraldine. The Wilburn kids began their careers singing on the street corner of their hometown in Arkansas. After recording for Decca Records and becoming famous as the duo, the Wilburn Brothers, Teddy and Doyle discovered Loretta Lynn and helped launch her career by introducing her on their syndicated television show and getting her on the Grand Ole Opry. As a 15-year-old, Patty Loveless also worked on their popular TV show.

The Wilburns established Sure-Fire Music in the early ’50s, and while other “mom and pop” publishers sold out to the deep pockets of the corporate world when mergers, sales and acquisitions became master of Music Row, the Wilburns held on. The four brothers are gone, but their sister lives in Hot Springs, Ark., and Sure-Fire Music is still in continuous operation.

Leslie Wilburn’s wife, Arvemia, recently contacted me with current information for Sure-Fire. The company has four songs that are on Grammy-nominated albums, including “Not That I Care,” a track from Willie Nelson’s You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, nominated in the country category. In the bluegrass album category “Roll Muddy River” and “Hard Times” are included on the Grascals album, Long List of Heartaches and “Midnight Angel” is on Rhonda Vincent’s All American Bluegrass Girl. “Midnight Angel,” Vincent’s duet with Bobby Osborne, is also up for best country collaboration with vocals.

The Wilburn Brothers — now there’s an act that deserves the attention of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

What’s Happening
I really enjoyed having Lindsey Haun visit my kitchen and appear on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks. I just learned this week the singer-songwriter-actress was added to the bill for Toby Keith’s Hookin’ Up and Hangin’ Out tour which kicks off Jan. 25 in Albany, N.Y.

Taylor Swift said, “Just think. A year ago, I was sitting in high school.” The 17-year-old is now opening shows for George Strait and will be the opener for Brad Paisley’s tour when it debuts in April. Taylor enlisted actor Tyler Hilton for the video of her upcoming single, “Teardrops on My Guitar.” Hilton appeared in the movie, Walk the Line, as a young Elvis Presley.

After the Golden Globe awards on Jan. 15, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were spotted at a private after-party hosted by the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. CAA books Keith’s concerts.

I heard Garth Brooks and Trisha were getting hairdos at Trumps, a salon in Nashville’s Green Hills area. There’s an unsubstantiated rumor circulating that the couple may be expecting. Lordy mercy, if this be true, I reckon that means it’ll be another 18 years before Garth tours again. When Garth took himself out of the spotlight a few years ago, he said he planned to stay retired until his children graduate from high school.

The word I get is Clay Walker has proposed to his girlfriend, model Jessica Craig.

Miranda Lambert wrote or co-wrote eight of the 11 songs on her forthcoming album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, set for a May 1 release.

Dierks Bentley and Cross Canadian Ragweed are hooking up for their third High Times & Hangovers tour opening Feb. 1 in Chicago. The nine-city club tour ends Feb. 9 in Statesboro, Ga. Dierks calls it the “how much fun we can have and how much money we can lose” tour.

Learning what not to do in the music biz — as well as what to do — will no doubt be a major part of the curriculum at George Jones University. Only 200 students will be allowed entrance in the quarterly sessions that are being planned in the Nashville area. You may see George Jones and Tom T. Hall at the classes, but you will definitely see George’s wife, Nancy.

To compete with Big & Rich, Little Jimmy Dickens is teaming with Bill Anderson and his Po’ Folks Band. When they hit the road, they’ll be billed as Little & Po’.

Willie Nelson will be joined by Jessica Simpson when he appears Feb. 10 with the Fort Worth Symphony at the Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas. Willie and Jessica, co-stars of The Dukes of Hazzard movie are headed again for the big screen for another flick titled Blonde Ambition.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fruit Parfait.