HOT DISH: High Winds Blowing in Country Music News

Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney Are in the Headlines

(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 CMT.com.)

Like a whirling freight train roaring and zooming, tornadoes began Wednesday night (Feb. 6) in western Tennessee and cut clear across to us in Nashville, uprooting whatever was in its path plumb over to the Kentucky line. You can’t overdub it, and you can’t sing to it, but you can pray whenever baseball-sized hail is mixed in with lots of golf ball-sized pellets bouncing outside the window. Unlike others, those of us in the Nashville area were lucky, but forgive me if I seem out of tune with the following.

The first-round finalists have been announced for the 2008 CMT Music Awards, and Brad Paisley’s “Online” leads the pack with six nominations. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much at a video as I laughed at “Online.” Actor Jason Alexander of Seinfeld directed and starred in the video which also featured TV stars William Shatner and Maureen McCormick. Jason Alexander is one of the funniest people alive. In the role of the overweight, slow son in the video, he was perfect. Lord knows, in this day and time with the war and the economy, we need to laugh And I laughed big-time at “Online.”

Listen, all the nominated videos deserve to be in the running.

2008 CMT Music Awards premieres live on April 14 on CMT from The Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville. A stellar lineup is promised. Tune in.

Rascal Flatts Back From UK Blitz
Rascal Flatts just completed a blitz of the UK ending with a performance and interview at London’s Abbey Road in the studio where the Beatles and Pink Floyd once recorded. Rascal Flatts appeared in Ireland on The Late Late Show, supposedly the longest-running TV show in the world, where they sang “What Hurts the Most.”

Back on the home front, the blistering hot trio will host the Academy of Country Music’s fifth annual celebrity golf classic on May 17 in Las Vegas. Note to Joe Don: Be sure you’re at the house when your wife Tiffany goes into labor!

Carrie Underwood’s Popularity Still Soaring
Entertainment Weekly had a poll on its Web site asking, “What artist would you like to see on the Grammy Awards, and who are you most excited about?” A whopping 29 percent of the respondents voted for Carrie Underwood. Only 9 percent voted for Beyonc√©.

Speaking of Carrie, did you know her “Before He Cheats” became country’s first Certified double-platinum digital single. And “Jesus, Take the Wheel” earned platinum certification.

Tim McGraw’s New Video and Tour
I recall when the late Eddie Rabbitt topped the chart with “Suspicions” in 1979. I predict that Tim McGraw, who just released a live video of the song, will have a No. 1 single with his cover version. Written by Rabbitt, Even Stevens, David Malloy and Randy McCormick, this is a double-header for the writers.

Tim McGraw’s 2008 Live Your Voice tour kicks off May 9 with opening acts Jason Aldean and Halfway to Hazard. Like Faith Hill promised, she’s not touring with her husband this year.

Kenny Chesney, Record Producer
Kenny Chesney co-produced an album for Willie Nelson and co-produced an album for his guitar player, Tim Hensley. Why did Kenny bother to produce these two albums? He obviously doesn’t need the money. Why? He loves music.

I cannot say how much it pleases me that Kenny would be proud to work with the legendary Willie and equally proud to work with Tim. See, the world knows Willie’s music, but Tim is a guitar player who happens to be a bluegrasser. How many superstars would reach back and produce a bluegrass album on a band member? None that I know, except for Kenny. Folks, Kenny is a big man. A big, big man.

News and More News
Alabama’s Randy Owen is getting serious about his solo career. The lead singer of the legendary group is determined to approach the project like a new artist by embarking on an old-fashioned radio tour, shaking hands and meeting folks. His first single is “Braid My Hair.”

James Otto causing some static. CMT added his video, “Just Started Lovin’ You.” His single of the same title was iTunes discovery download recently and was the second most added single of the week at radio. Not bad.

John Corbett of Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the leading man in Trisha Yearwood’s new video, “This Is Me You’re Talking To.” Trisha was glad John was taller than her.

Should you want tickets for CMA Music Festival 2008, I advise you to get moving now. They’re selling faster than hotcakes. Much faster than ever before, so I hear.

During a recent storm in the Nashville area, Bobby Bare’s wife Jeannie escaped serious injury when an uprooted tree went through the roof of their lakeside home in Hendersonville, Tenn., and landed on the sofa where she was sitting while she watched television. Jeannie, alone at the time, somehow managed to crawl from beneath the tree and debris, find a flashlight and call 911. She suffered two cracked vertebrae and was treated and released at a nearby hospital.

With monies collected from CD sales, Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) chairman Darrel Adkins and the Grascals delivered a check for $40,000 to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for Children. The bluegrass band has performed at MACC’s benefit concert each year since 2005

The Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) concert movie grossed $29 million during its first weekend in theaters.

I see where Harold and Don Reid, founding members of the Statler Brothers, have written a book titled, Random Memories. Reid and Reid will be at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Feb. 28 to answer questions and sign books. For three decades — from 1970 until 2000 — the quartet had more than 50 hits and their weekly television show consistently boasted high ratings.

Since this is Jack Ingram’s second consecutive year to be on the road on Valentines Day, he’s sending his wife, Amy two dozen roses.

Celebrities being inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on Feb. 21 include Crystal Gayle, Dwight Yoakam, Florence Henderson, Norro Wilson and Les McCaan.

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