HOT DISH: Wall-to-Wall Carrie

It's a Toby Christmas Coming Up

(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 hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

Everywhere I look I see Carrie Underwood. Even Country Music Television has become Carrie Music Television. Cute, CMT. However, I was a fan of Carrie Underwood before CMT (Country Music Television) was CMT (Carrie Music Television). The first time I saw her on American Idol, I applauded her and I applaud her to this day. She’s not the friendliest person, by no stretch of the imagination. Matter of fact, when I was first introduced to Carrie, she had the most pitiful, limpest handshake I’d ever shook. “You’re gonna be a star, girlfriend,” I said, “And you have to shake hands like this,” and I gave her hand a ’girlie’ politician’s squeeze. That was her first trip to the ASCAP Awards. Next night at the BMI do, when she saw me, she jumped up from the table and gave my hand a big squeeze to let me know she’d learned.

Yep, I see Carrie everywhere and she’s headed for a carnival ride, the reason for all this wall-to-wall Carrie. Entertainment Weekly says her new CD, Carnival Ride, absolutely sounds like a country record the whole way through. They claim her first CD, Some Hearts, the 6-million record seller, had a handful of pop songs. Maybe between the hits, EW, but not the singles — not even close. For instance, “Jesus, Take the Wheel” was a right-out-of-the-box country smash. Such a smart move by Renee Bell and the A&R department at the record label to jump-start a career with a song that grabbed country fans in the heart and inundated country radio with boatloads of requests.

American Idol has been quite the vehicle for acts like Carrie, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington to establish their careers faster than someone from Podunk, Idaho, who rode into town on a Greyhound with a guitar and a dream. Yet, if the truth be known, had Carrie not had the want-to as well as the talent, her pretty butt would have been sent right back to the farm in Checotah, Okla. Blessed with natural beauty, she was lucky enough to open shows for artists like Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. She was talented enough to perform well on television. She is packaged as a country act because that’s what she says she sings. Only Carrie knows her heart and it appears her heart has spoken.

Busy Carrie has awards on her mantle from the CMA, ACM and Grammys but no photos of herself and a certain guy. There’s no time for romance for the 24-year old singer. She is doing one-nighters and TV and the Opry and she is obviously serious about her career. It’s CMT time folks.

Whether you like Carrie or not, there’s 6 million fans who like her well enough that they bought her CD. By the time you read this article, we will know how many Carnival Ride records Carrie sold first week out of the chute. Will she surpass the sales of top-selling Rascal Flatts? It will be interesting to see if she sells as good as the guys. Don’t you think?

It’s Turkey Time
Last year on the Monday before Thanksgiving, Tracy Lawrence set up shop in front of the Nashville Rescue Mission and deep-fried 235 turkeys for the homeless. This year the singer will return on Monday before Thanksgiving and cook 400 birds for the homeless. It is Tracy’s hope that this local turnout will become a national event and become a day of awareness and giving to people in need across this great land of ours. The Nashville Rescue Mission feeds an average of 1,300 people daily, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There is a need in every city. Won’t you help Tracy help those who cannot help themselves?

Toby Can Sing
A Toby Keith Classic Christmas will premiere on CMT on Nov. 24. Toby’s two-disc set of the same title is in stores now and in my player because it is so festive and so good. Songs like “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as well as “Little Drummer Boy” and “The First Noel” touch the heart — songs we’ve loved and played for our children in the cradle. This may be my all-time favorite Toby Keith album, and I shall play it for my children’s children over the holidays.

Shooter in NYC
Shooter Jennings packed the Bowery Bar in New York City where he performed songs from his new CD, The Wolf. Wall to wall with the press as well as his very spermed wife Drea de Mateo. The word I got is she is definitely in the family way. It’s a girl — due in November.

Big Kenny in Sudan
Big & Rich’s Big Kenny and his wife Christiev visited Akon, Sudan, where they delivered medical and school supplies, musical instruments, clothing and building tools to the Kunyuk School for Girls. Kenny sent an e-mail that described the 500 singing children who met them on the runway. The school was under trees, the clinic no more than a table. Thirty of the patients had malaria on their day of arrival. It was the most impoverished situation Big Kenny had ever seen but with genuinely happy and appreciative people. Like us, the Sudanese want to save their children. The 20 crates of aid brought by Big Kenny and his wife will surely help the refugees and help improve humankind. Big Kenny signed the e-mail: “Love will lead the way.” God bless Big Kenny and Christiev.

CMA Award Performances
The latest performers added to the list include Alison Krauss, Jason Aldean and Kellie Pickler. Added as presenters are Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton and Gretchen Wilson. Blake and Gretchen should be performing in my opinion. Previously announced performers are Rodney Atkins, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Eagles, Miranda Lambeth, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire with LeAnn Rimes, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Rascal Flatts open the show and perform with Jamie Foxx. The show airs Nov. 7 on ABC-TV.

I hear Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood offered to perform live via remote from Kansas City but the offer was refused. By whom? I don’t know, but it is of my opinion that it’s a huge mistake. Fans — people who love country music — watch TV and create great ratings. They could have and would have taken the show over the roof if only Garth was there.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pumpkin Bread.