HOT DISH: The First Family Gets a Taste of Country Music

Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Charley Pride Entertain the First Family

(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

For six months, I’ve watched President Barack Obama laugh and frown, but I saw America’s leader smile Tuesday night (July 21) when Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride performed in the East Room of the White House. He smiled a happy, pleased smile that made me know the main man of the U.S.A. likes country music — and so does our first lady, Michelle Obama. Both of them were bobbing their heads in time with the music.

Eddie Stubbs, the Grand Ole Opry announcer who introduced the musical acts at the White House, made Obama aware that every president since Nixon has made it a point to visit the Opry. Just so you know, I was there when the first President Bush and his wife Barbara were there. They are huge country music fans. And then there was another time at the Opry when I was wearing sandals and then-Vice President Walter Mondale stepped on my toe. Ohhh!

Big guns like Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sony Music Entertainment Nashville chairman Joe Galante were among those who looked on proudly as Brad, Alison and Charley performed. Guitarist Dan Tyminski, a member of Alison’s Union Station band, sang his award-winning version of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Not to say that Alison was nervous about performing for the president, but she allowed, “I can’t look down. It’s like when relatives are seated on the first row.”

Brad, visually moved by being in the East Room of the White House, began his set with the title song from his new album, American Saturday Night, and followed it with “Then” before Alison joined him to sing “Whiskey Lullaby.” Brad closed with his current single, “Welcome to the Future,” his favorite of all the songs he’s written. Brad makes some great observations in it, so it’s my hope that fans will give the lyrics a close listen.

Speaking of Brad, I got a call from him, but I wasn’t home. We used to talk a lot, but these days, he’s so busy being famous. As for me, I was out checking out school clothes with my beautiful singing granddaughter. I returned the call to Brad, but it was the day he was heading to the White House. Returning a call to the White House or Hazel’s house — one takes precedence over the other, I suppose.

Dolly and Kenny Are Together Again
Back in 1983, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers had a huge hit with “Islands in the Stream,” a song written by the Bee Gees that topped the country and pop charts. Well, Dolly and Kenny are at it again with a song titled “Tell Me That You Love Me.” Wait until you hear it! I don’t think very many people have heard the song yet, but the two of them sing like angels.

Sammy Kershaw Gets Hot
One of Sammy Kershaw’s friends recently sent him a text message that asked, “Are you watching True Blood on HBO?” Sammy wasn’t tuned in to the hit series, but he flipped the channel and pretty soon he heard part of “Louisiana Hot Sauce,” a song he co-wrote with Keith Stegall in 1999 that was on his Maybe Not Tonight album. With True Blood being hailed by critics, bloggers and fans, Sammy’s song was one of the top downloads at iTunes the following morning. Sammy’s Web site was so overloaded with traffic that day, it crashed several times.

Entertainment Weekly has bragged on whoever is picking the music on True Blood. I spoke with Sammy, and he isn’t sure who chose his song. He did tell me he’s just finished an album and hasn’t nailed down a home for it as of yet. If I owned a record label, I’d sign Sammy. He’s one of our finest country singers.

Trace Adkins Becomes Action Hero
The wonderful Trace Adkins can now add action hero to his long list of accomplishments. In November, a new comic book series will feature Luke McBain, a tough Southern action hero based on Trace, the singing star. He’s the first country artist to be featured as a fictional character in a comic book series. The drawing of the character favors Trace, and the comic book’s plot will reflect some of his philosophy. The story takes place when McBain returns home to rural Louisiana after serving 14 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Julianne and Emmy
Multi-talented Julianne Hough is nominated for an Emmy. She and brother Derek share the nomination for outstanding choreography for their dance routine to “Great Balls of Fire” on Dancing With the Stars. The Emmy Awards show airs Sept. 20 on CBS. The last I heard, Julianne will be co-starring with Chace Crawford in the remake of the film, Footloose. I’m wondering when that pretty girl is going to find time to work on her country music career.

Mac McAnally Ready for Album Release
A wearer of many hats, Mac McAnally is a respected singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer. He’ll release his self-produced album, Down by the River, on Aug. 4 on the Show Dog Nashville label. Mac has pledged the royalties from the first single, “You First,” to the Wounded Warriors Project. Earlier this year, Mac performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to honor wounded soldiers.

Mac was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. The following year, he was named the CMA’s musician of the year and was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. Best known for his work on the road and in the studio with Jimmy Buffett, Mac has played behind or sang harmony for Roy Orbison, Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dolly Parton and many more.

More News
Kenny Chesney will be in Central Park in New York City on Aug. 14 for an appearance on Good Morning America’s summer concert series.

In spite of the rumors, my dear friend who has worked with Merle Haggard for four decades assures me that Hag’s recent concert cancellations were a result of a headache. We send prayers to the great Merle Haggard because we need him. Aren’t Merle and Willie recording together in December?

With three No. 1 singles so far, Alan Jackson’s Good Time is on the way to becoming his latest platinum album. The latest single, “I Still Like Bologna,” is an ode to all things good and simple in the country life.

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles has been put on voice rest. The duo had to cancel several shows after she strained her voice.

Brandi Glanville, actor Eddie Cibrian’s wife and the mother of their two young sons, has filed for divorce and moved out, according to the New York Daily News. She accused country singer LeAnn Rimes of stalking her husband. Glanville also told Us Weekly that they deserve each other. According to the magazine, Rimes is still dating Cibrian.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Egg Custard Pie.