HOT DISH: Kenny Chesney, Dave Matthews and the CMA Awards

More News About Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Billy Ray Cyrus and Other Country Stars

(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

Will the world of country music be in a far better place after Nov. 11 when Dave Matthews sings “I’m Alive” with Kenny Chesney on the CMA Awards Show? Yes, yes. I know Matthews sang the song on the record with Kenny, but singing it with him on national TV is a whole other deal.

The thousands who heard Vince Gill singing harmony wherever it was needed during the recent We’re All for the Hall concert in Nashville with Keith Urban know it’s etched in concrete that nobody does it as good as Vinnie. Shoot, I’ve got a CD here at the house with the inimitable Vince singing perfect harmony to high lonesome bluegrass, but I sure haven’t heard any announcement of anything that perfectly wonderful airing on this year’s CMA Awards and don’t think I’m likely to.

I just felt this needed to be said as a reminder of the incredible Alison Krauss and all the others who fly the bluegrass banner with pride. The late maker and creator of bluegrass, the great Bill Monroe, is more than likely smiling somewhere in heaven as he reads what I’ve written. “That woman does talk,” he’d say proudly.

By the way, let me just say that Kenny did a fine job singing “I’m Alive” on the recording, and Matthews sounded almost country. Just for the record, I like and approve of Dave Matthews for his involvement with Willie Nelson and Farm Aid. Why, he’s even on the Farm Aid board.

Kenny says every time he hears Matthews’ voice, he smiles and remembers, but I can’t help but wonder if Kenny is remembering how they got out of what they were into down in the islands. The more I talk, though, the more I can’t wait until Nov. 11 to hear Kenny and Dave.

Brad Paisley Surprises Florida Family With Pickup Truck
A young family got a huge surprise at Brad Paisley’s recent concert in Jacksonville, Fla. Tim and Amber Brown of Orange Park, Fla., and their two sons were seated in the nosebleed section of Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena when they were approached just before show time and offered front row seats.

After the concert, Tim (who is in the Navy) and Amber (who is pregnant) were invited backstage to meet Brad. When they met, Brad posed for a quick photo, then said, “Let’s go for a walk.” With Tim carrying the older boy and Amber carrying the younger one, Brad informed them they were the 1 millionth ticketholder and that he had something planned for them.

When they approached the 2009 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, Brad handed Tim a set of keys and said, “It’s yours.” Amber, speechless and overcome with emotion, began to cry while Tim shook Brad’s hand and thanked him over and over. “You just don’t know what a blessing this truck is to us,” Tim told him.

When a good guy like Brad can present a gift like this that ended up with a couple expecting their third child, you just know the giver was as thrilled as the weeping mother. I believe the Good Lord had something to do with that millionth ticket being sold in Jacksonville.

ASCAP Throws Another Big Bash
Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride were at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last week when Alan Jackson was named songwriter-artist of the year at ASCAP’s annual country music awards presentation. Some 1,500 people watched as Ashley Gorley was named songwriter of the year for coming up with such hits as Trace Adkins“You’re Gonna Miss This,” which also happened to be ASCAP’s song of the year.

Some of the other artists in attendance included Dierks Bentley, Keith Anderson, Darryl Worley, Jason Michael Carroll, Eric Church, Bucky Covington, Heidi Newfield and Billy Currington. A passel of awards were doled out to the hit songwriters before they found their way up the elevator at the AT&T Tower (usually referred to as the Batman Building) for a party featuring shrimp, tenderloin, more desserts than you could ever dream of and, yes, even some alcoholic beverages. ASCAP’s head angel, Connie Bradley, does know how to set the tables and fill the glasses.

Nashville Songwriters Honor Their Own
The place in my heart that loves songwriters happily reports that Mark D. Sanders, Kye Fleming and the late Tammy Wynette were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the Renaissance Hotel. Taylor Swift was named songwriter-artist of the year, Craig Wiseman was hailed as the songwriter of the decade and Toby Keith took home the songwriter-artist of the decade trophy.

I was so proud to learn that the songwriters decided that three of my favorite songs were among the best to surface during the past year. The first is the incredible “Waitin’ on a Woman,” recorded by Brad Paisley and authored by Don Sampson and Wynn Varble. And then there’s “People Are Crazy,” the killer song performed by Billy Currington and written by the great Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones. Of course, the other one is the song that almost made me wreck my car the first time I heard it on the radio — Jamey Johnson’s “In Color,” which he co-wrote with Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto.

Taylor’s Taylor Guitar
Taylor Swift is getting her own signature guitar in collaboration with Taylor Guitars. The Taylor Swift Baby Taylor guitar is three-quarters the size of a regular instrument and will retail for $398. Can Taylor Guitars, the company, be swift enough to manufacture all the Taylor guitars pre-teen and teens will want to find under their Christmas tree?

Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins Share Some Hillbilly Laughs
Blake Shelton is the most amusing person in show biz, and Trace Adkins has got the biggest laugh. So when Blake invited Trace to appear in his video, “Hillbilly Bone,” there was no way to say no. Reads to me like those two “hillbillied” each other the entire shoot. Neither had very far to go. Trace says Blake is the funniest guy he knows.

Billy Ray Cyrus Stars in Holiday Film
I see where Billy Ray Cyrus will be ushering in the holidays with Christmas in Canaan, a new film premiering Dec. 12 on the Hallmark channel. The film’s story comes from a book co-authored by Kenny Rogers. Billy Ray plays the part of Daniel Burton, a widowed father struggling to raise his three sons in Canaan, Texas.

Quick Notes
With her hair pulled straight back and wearing a black strapless dress, Faith Hill is launching her first fragrance. And it’s not called “Have a Smell of Faith.” It’s simply “Faith Hill.”

Carrie Underwood traveled to Singapore to visit with the Asian media to promote her new album, Play On, set for release Nov. 3 in the U.S.

Jack Ingram is always looking ahead, and he says when he gets up to the ultimate guitar pull and is in a hallowed circle with his musical heroes — Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt — the song he wants to perform is his current single, “Seeing Stars.”

John Rich and his wife, Joan, are expecting their first child. The couple married last December.

Pop Singer Ashlyne Huff Enters Family Business
Her first single is “Heart of Gold,” and she’s the first artist signed to Anderson Companies music marketing and recording company, Liquid Digital Media. Want to know why I want you to know about this pop singer? Read on.

Many hit songs ago, I met a marvelous Christian record producer named Ronn Huff, who produced records at Glaser Sound Studio. Some years later, I met Ronn’s son, a marvelous teenaged guitar player named Dann Huff. I ended up hiring Dann to play on some of Dr. Hook’s recording sessions when he just was 17 or 18 years old. The same Dann Huff later played on records by Michael Jackson, Madonna and Faith Hill, to name a few, and ultimately became an unbelievable record producer who now produces Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts.

So what does pop singer Ashlyne Huff have to do with Ronn and Dann Huff? She is Dann’s daughter and Ronn’s granddaughter. After graduating from Belmont University in Nashville, she co-wrote every song on her upcoming album. In addition, she worked with Tommy Lee James and Stefanie Ridel to co-write “I’m Done,” a song featured on the Pussycat Dolls’ 2008 album, Doll Domination.

Some Final Words
With Halloween flying toward us fast and furious, we already have a Michael Jackson trick-or-treat outfit for my 11-year-old grandson Trevor while my 4-year-old granddaughter Mattie prefers the look of a princess. Trevor does the moon dance, and Mattie looks at her image in the mirror and sings loudly while doing the hula hoop with a vengeance.

Be sure and tune in to CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks on Nov. 8 to see what Jo Dee Messina is up to these days. Plus the movie is, Top Gun, starring a young Tom Cruise before he became an actor who goes on TV and leaps up and down on sofas. Tom was wonderful before he decided he knew all there was to know.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Potato Salad.