HOT DISH: Thanks, Fans, for Visiting Nashville and the CMA Music Festival

Wrapping Up the News From the Festival and the CMT Music Awards

(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

Did anybody in Nashville remember to thank the 56,000 guests who came from across the U.S. and around the world to attend the recent CMA Music Festival ? Were there large white banners with red lettering that welcomed country music fans to our city? And were there goodbye banners thanking them for coming with the message, “Hope to see you next year”? If not, there should have been.

Even with the sudden storms, fans were royally entertained while sometimes being soaked to the skin. Let me humbly thank each one who came to the festival. I hope you enjoyed our town. And I hope you made it home safe and are already making plans to return in 2010 to see the biggest and best array of talent ever assembled.

Festival Proves Country Music Still Thriving
As long as there are reports of Jamey Johnson singing George Jones’ “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” while the entire audience is waving their lit cell phones and singing along, I’d bet country music is still legit and bankable. When Jamey sang the song, some of the audience members answered the question by yelling, “You will!”

Trace Adkins let his long hair hang loose and curly. As long as he sings hits that his fans love to hear, Trace will continue to hit over-the-fence homers. As much as the fans went nuts for Jamey Johnson, they went just as crazy for Trace. With three young daughters at home who listen to music by Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, it has to be a joy to go onstage and play his hits. Trace is on tour with Toby Keith. Two former oil drillers singing country music. Who would’ve thought?

As long as Kid Rock can get Martina McBride to sing “Picture” with him, you know country music remains healthy. He was the surprise guest at one of the evening concerts at LP Field, and the crowd went crazy when he hit the stage. He has recorded at Martina and husband John McBride’s Nashville studio, so he has become friends with them.

By the way, Martina’s annual auction during the music fest raised more than $72,000 for YWCA.

One of the big moments during the festival was when the Judds performed. Fans who remember them and their hits were thrilled to hear the duo sing together again. The young fans of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler may not be familiar with the Judds’ music, but I’ll bet they’d love it if they heard it. Nobody has those grand pipes like Wynonna.

Country music is in good shape as long as we’ve got stars willing to hang around during a three-hour weather delay and then perform at midnight. That was the situation one night during the concert at LP Field where Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley waited until the storm cleared enough that the fans were safe and relatively dry from the rain. Folks like Brad and Dierks realize those attending the CMA Music Festival are the A-list country fans who save their money all year to travel to Nashville. Brad and Dierks will always stand strong with these solid fans.

While the weather was more favorable the night he appeared, Kenny Chesney was another artist who stayed up late to perform at LP Field. The show already had a lineup that included Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Heidi Newfield, John Rich and Taylor Swift. Kenny was supposed to be the surprise guest, but the CMA changed its mind and decided to announce his appearance in advance. Playing for that many loyal fans is something Kenny wanted to be a part of.

Highlights From CMT Music Awards
Believe it or not, Keith Urban drove his own car to the CMT Music Awards and parked across from the Sommet Center in downtown Nashville. Fans mobbed him and almost made him late for the big show.

It was cool seeing Keith and his pal, Brad Paisley, in a manly embrace when they were declared winners in the collaborative video category for “Start a Band.” It made me smile just thinking about two hillbillies in their denim britches married to beautiful movie stars. Nicole Kidman and Kimberly Williams-Paisley were not present for the awards show. Both were obviously home with their babies, as was Dierks Bentley’s wife, Cassidy. Dierks did bring along a special “date” for the evening — his dog, Jake.

Brad also won the male video award for “Waitin’ on a Woman,” shot on the outer banks of North Carolina with resident Andy Griffith. He also shared the CMT performance of the year honor with Dierks, George Strait and Alan Jackson for “Country Boy,” Alan’s song that was featured on an episode of CMT Giants.

The fan-voted video awards were also kind to Taylor Swift, who took home trophies for best female video and the big prize — video of the year — for “Love Story.”

Trace Adkins and Toby Keith didn’t win anything, but if awards were given for the best singers of the night, those big boys would have sure been in the running. Both of them sang their butts off. Trace sang “You’re Gonna Miss This” while Toby did “God Love Her.”

The group video award went to Rascal Flatts“Every Day.” Their current album is titled Unstoppable, and that’s what they’re calling their summer tour, too. But that ain’t all. They’ve teamed up with the Denny’s restaurant chain for the Rascal Flatts’ Unstoppable Breakfast that includes a biscuit topped with country-fried steak, your choice of eggs, American cheese, country gravy and three strips of bacon with a side of hash browns. Lead singer Gary LeVox says he likes to eat at Denny’s after performing.

CMT’s Wide Open Country video award went to Kid Rock for his excellent “All Summer Long,” the top summer song for 2008. This award goes to an artist considered to be outside the mainstream of country music. It really didn’t matter to me about the genre of Kid Rock’s video. In all my years in the biz of music, I never heard a song that fit the season as well as “All Summer Long.” If you can’t tell, I happen to be Kid Rock fan.

The duo video trophy went to Sugarland for “All I Want to Do.” The duo was joined by the B-52s on the rock group’s “Love Shack.” These performances gave Kristian Bush an opportunity to showcase his vocal talent — something he seldom gets to do since Jennifer Nettles does most of the singing in Sugarland. People enjoyed hearing his solo voice. I sure did.

Congratulations to my friend, Zac Brown. He and his band received the USA Weekend breakthrough video award for “Chicken Fried.” I’m so proud of Zac. On the awards show, I didn’t see Zac’s band member who wore a trucker’s hat, an unbuttoned shirt and Daisy Duke cutoffs. He stood off to the side. I missed that altogether, but a photo I saw from the awards show red carpet made me say, “Oh, Lordy!”

Congratulations to Roger Cook
Congratulations to songwriter Roger Cook, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame during ceremonies in New York City this past week. Roger is the father of CMT’s own Katie Cook. His songwriting credits include Crystal Gayle’s “Talking in Your Sleep,” Don Williams’ “I Believe in You” and George Strait’s “One Night at a Time.” He also wrote the Hollies’ pop hit, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” along with the New Seekers’ “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Homemade Pimento Cheese.