HOT DISH: Recapping the ACM Awards

Some Thoughts About George Strait, Sugarland, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Others

(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.)

Dear Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. ACM: Would it be possible for the performers to have a copy of the 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards show? Maybe if they heard themselves, they’d be more apt to stay on key next year.

In my opinion, the best performance of last week’s ACM Awards was George Strait singing “I Saw God Today.” The steel guitar break on that song was welcome to my ears.

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, who got both the single and song of the year award for “Stay,” is a whole lot like me: Her hair always looks like it’s been styled with an egg beater.

Why did they have to give Brad Paisley his video of the year award for “Online” off-camera? I mean, a well-known actor like Jason Alexander, who directed the video and played a key acting role in it, was present. He should have been a bigger part of the show instead of Criss Angel and Poppy Montgomery. I have to say though, the ACM isn’t as bad as it used to be about dragging in minor Hollywood stars as presenters. At least I got to see Brad pick up his male vocalist trophy and saw him perform twice.

I hope those who watched the show realized something very important was happening when Carrie Underwood and Brad honored the late Eddy Arnold with their performance of his 1965 country-pop hit, “Make the World Go Away.” Brilliant guitarist that he is, Brad sure reminded me of the late, great Chet Atkins on that big instrument. Of course, it was Atkins who produced and played guitar on Arnold’s records.

Carrie was beautiful in the mauve colored dress she wore during the tribute, but she was even more stunning when she walked the orange carpet in silver spangles and was breathtakingly gorgeous in the white outfit when she opened the show singing “Last Name.”

Kellie Pickler is such a twinkling star. She added sugar to the ACM Awards when she debuted her single “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful.” It doesn’t take a genius to know this is a female song. Chat rooms and fan sites were buzzing while the show was still airing. BNA Records worked overtime to appease radio by quickly delivering the studio recording of the song.

Miranda Lambert is really good. I enjoyed her performance and enjoyed seeing her look of surprise at winning the album of the year award for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I tell you what: Miranda, Carrie, Kellie and Taylor Swift need to do stadium shows beginning April 2009 and cough up a percentage for me for the brilliant idea.

I got a kick out of Miranda’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton, who was fairly nervous when he introduced her performance. Blake is a great singer and a good looking guy. Somebody give him the proverbial shove he needs to reach superstardom. Hey, Blake even sings on key.

Anybody who says one negative word about Reba McEntire’s hosting job is an idiot. Her 10th year hosting the ACMs was better than ever. She was pretty, sharp, funny, bright, clever and only changed clothes four times! Royal blue is the redhead’s color. If you love country music, give Reba a hand.

I’ve never seen Garth Brooks when he appeared nervous, but he must have been on that show. He was all sweaty and hot from singing a medley of 10 songs (if I counted right), and he’s not used to performing these days. When Reba presented him with the ACM Crystal Milestone Award and he called her Miss Yearwood, I knew good and well that Garth needs to sing onstage a whole lot more. He laughed and corrected himself, told Reba twice he loved her and said her presenting the trophy made it special. Garth was presented the award for sales of over 123 million records.

Speaking like a hillbilly Shakespeare in gratitude for his top new male vocalist trophy, Jack Ingram not only gave the top speech of the night, he was smoking hot to look at. I’d say he was the sexiest man of the evening.

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum did not forget her raisings. Her two partners in music diddled around and thanked their label, manager and radio, but Hillary thanked God. I’ll bet her sweet mama, singer Linda Davis, told her, “Don’t forget God!” They took home best new duo or group honors. Looks to me like they would have allowed some TV time for Tracy Lawrence to accept the vocal event award for “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” his single with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw.

Lastly, Kenny Chesney is not a great big person, but he sure looks big in my eyes for stepping out regarding the ACM’s decision to use fan voting to decide the entertainer of the year winner. Kenny was presented the EOY award for the fourth consecutive year, but since it was decided to allow fans to vote — making the award what he called “a sweepstakes” — Kenny felt the change made it disrespectful to the artists. He felt it ceased to recognize their hard work for that honor, and he was man enough to say so. People in high places, who know more than I do, say if they are going to allow fans to vote, there should be an industry vote and a fan vote for the same category. Personally, I think it is a crying shame that the ACM’s first fan vote was for entertainer of the year. I think ACM members should be made aware of exactly who pushed this issue through.

The Academy of Country Music should have given airtime to the greats honored this year with the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award — the late Conway Twitty, the late Porter Wagoner, Brenda Lee and the Oak Ridge Boys.

The incredible Conway Twitty had more No. 1 singles than any other artist until George Strait broke his record, and he was one of the most loved artists ever in country music. He was one of the first country artists who could fill a coliseum.

How could they ignore the passing of the inimitable Porter Wagoner, who not only gave us Dolly Parton but also gave us great songs and, for 20 years, provided us with a syndicated television show where other stars great and small sang their songs. Porter, in his classy but sparkling Nudie suits, always put on one of the best stage shows that ever came out of this hillbilly town.

Brenda Lee, a performer since she was a small child has sold more than 100 million records. She’s the only woman in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How could they overlook this great woman of song who gave us “Sorry” and the classic “Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree”?

And what entertainers the Oak Ridge Boys are. I recall in the ’70s when they were a gospel group and decided to record country songs. They had a ton of hit singles and albums and won a bunch of awards. They’re in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. They should have been recognized by the ACM during the telecast.

Shania and Mutt Separate
Shania Twain and her husband of 14 years, songwriter and record producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange have separated. “This is a private matter and there will be no further comment,” according to the statement issued by Mercury Records, Shania’s record label.

Later, Mutt gave a statement saying the divorce is unfortunate and just a result of them growing apart. Apart? Rumor has it he grew apart from her and into the arms of another woman. According to reports, Mutt has been having an affair with Marie-Anne Thiébaud, longtime secretary and manager of the couple’s Switzerland chateau. The reports also claim that Mutt and Marie-Anne left their spouses for each other and are still in a relationship. Mutt denies all of this, and so does Marie-Anne. Word is that Shania is devastated.

Shania was always way too pretty for Mutt. Do you realize this is the first time he’s spoken her name publicly in all the time they’ve been together?

Blue Ridge Hall of Fame
The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for June 13 at the Walker Center on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C. Charter inductees are: Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, the Carter Family, Tommy Jarrell, David Johnson, Ralph Rinzler, Ralph Epperson, Wayne Henderson and Sam Love Queen Sr. These individuals are noted for their contributions to the special cultural and musical heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Final Notes
Congratulations to Dierks Bentley and wife Cassidy who are expecting in the fall.

Just saw Jamey Johnson’s video of “In Color” on CMT.com. Let me dry my eyes, and I’ll tell you how wonderful it is. Gosh, there’s no words for that kind of wonderful.

I also had a big helping of Ashton Shepherd followed by the new Randy Travis CD, Around the Bend. This is great country music.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Southern Baked Beans.