HOT DISH: All the Country Music News Is on the Road

Nashville's Finest Are Working Hard During the Summer Concert Season

(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 almost have to go out on the road to get any country music news these days because that’s where nearly everybody is spending their summer.

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles has been out singing so much this summer on the big Kenny Chesney tour, why, she didn’t have time to report that she divorced her husband, Atlanta entrepreneur Todd Van Sickle, back in March. Or maybe she thought, “It’s nobody’s business.” But in Nashville, it becomes everyone’s business just because it’s show biz.

But the big news involving Sugarland is that they will be headlining this year’s CMT on Tour with Little Big Town and Jake Owen. The tour will launch Sept. 27 and continue through Dec. 15 — just in time for Santa Claus.

But Sugarland isn’t the only act who’s burning up the roads. I’ve seen screaming headlines from the West Coast where Keith Urban has been hard at work. Cindy Spicer and the girls from KUSS-FM in San Diego tell me Keith is hands down the EOY (entertainer of the year). Farther north in California, The Sacramento Bee allowed, “Urban is the best reason in the world to attend a live concert.”

Then he moved east to Austin, Texas, where the headline read, “Urban Plays Like a Rock Star.”

“Well, it’s not Stubb’s, but it’s gonna have to do,” Urban joked to the capacity crowd at Erwin Center. Ten years ago, he performed at Stubb’s, a barbecue joint in downtown Austin. “About six people came out,” he recalled.

Nobody complains about Keith’s performances, and nobody who bought a ticket would deny Keith’s guitar-playing prowess or his songwriting or his good looks. How could he not look good dressed in a black T-shirt that was wringing wet by the time the night was over? Shoot, I always end up at the wrong place!

Gretchen Wilson was really working during most of her recent stay in Hawaii, where she performed at the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay. But when her band and crew toured Pearl Harbor, Gretchen and daughter Gracie took advantage of the spare time to play on Waikiki Beach. Apparently, members of the band and crew told officials at Pearl Harbor who they worked for and where they were performing, because Gretchen was sent a very special gift — an American flag that had flown over the USS Arizona National Memorial at Pearl Harbor on June 26, 2007, which happened to be her birthday.

More News

Trisha Yearwood will release the single “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love” to country radio on Monday (July 16), but Big Machine Records will wait until July 30 for the big push to get airplay. Trisha not only got her hubby, Garth Brooks, out of the state of Oklahoma on July 7, they even performed at the Live Earth concert in Washington, D.C.

Kenny Chesney raked in almost $4 million for his recent concert in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Some 51,737 showed up for the big show.

Just 23 shows into his Bonfires & Amplifiers tour, Brad Paisley has already played to more than 250,000 fans. That, my friends, is a 42 percent increase from last year’s attendance for his Time Well Wasted tour.

Get up early on July 23 if you want to see and hear that cute Kellie Pickler perform “I Wonder” on ABC’s Good Morning America.

It hit the airways July 9th! I’m talking about Jo Dee Messina’s latest single, “Biker Chick.” The song was produced by Messina and Jerry Flowers. Flowers plays bass in Keith Urban’s band.

Big congratulations to Big & Rich on their very first No. 1 single, “Lost in the Moment.” The song was penned by John Rich, Keith Anderson and Rodney Clawson.

A little power keg called Lady Antebellum recently made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry after signing with Capitol Records. The trio consist of Hillary Scott (the daughter of Linda Davis), Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. You probably remember Linda’s
award-winning duet with Reba McEntire on “Does He Love You,” but I should point out that Hillary’s dad, Lang Scott, was the first winner of the You Can Be a Star talent competition back in the days of TNN: The Nashville Network.

Dierks Bentley joined the Grascals onstage at the recent Moondance Jammin’ Country Fest in Walker, Minn. Dierks performed “Being Me,” a Harley Allen song that’s featured on the Grascals’ Grammy-nominated CD, Long List of Heartaches.

I cannot wait to hear Merle Haggard’s upcoming album, The Bluegrass Sessions. It will be released Oct. 2 on the McCoury Music label. One of the tracks is Hag’s duet with Alison Krauss. Royalty meets royalty, I suspect.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fried Zucchini.