HOT DISH: Willie’s Wonderland

More Country Music News and Some Thoughts About American Idol

(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.)

Willie Nelson‘s fan club, Willie’s World, issues quarterly newsletters filled with up-to-date Willie happenings. I always stop, get a cup of coffee and read each issue cover to cover. Imagine my surprise while reading the current issue when I turned from page three (with photos of Willie and Billy Bob Thornton) to page four (with a picture of yours truly).

Apparently Dandy and Andrea, the wonderful gals from Pennsylvania who edit the newsletter, and Willie himself made a decision to run my recent Hot Dish column titled “Leave Willie Nelson Alone.” It was great to see CMT.com credited alongside the Hot Dish logo, but it sorta took my breath away when I saw that the other person who penned words of kindness for Willie was the great Merle Haggard.

I read in the newsletter where Willie and Asleep at the Wheel are working on a second album together, titled WWII, featuring songs from the World War II era. I’m sure Willie and Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson recall the great Ernest Tubb‘s songs from the era such as “Soldiers Last Letter,” “Rainbow at Midnight,” “Filipino Baby” and “Seaman’s Blues.” I must be crazy. I know the melodies of these songs and most of the lyrics.

Willie and pal Kris Kristofferson were two of the stars who honored Merle Haggard during the recent Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. The supertrio had a meeting. It seems Willie and Merle had plans for a collaborative album — and they wanted Kris to be part of it. “We thought about the title The Three Musketeers since there’s three of us,” allowed the Hag. “We’ll think of a way to put it together into a show.”

By the way, Thornton is finishing up producing a documentary on Willie. It should be out later in the year. And Willie and his son Lukas have been busy recording a duets album with producer Buddy Cannon. Lukas will be along for the ride on Willie’s Country Throwdown Tour 2011 featuring Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Lee Brice. It begins in Philadelphia on May 27.

Glee‘s Chord Overstreet Scores Super Bowl Tix
Hollywood’s super newcomer, Nashville native Chord Overstreet, who is decorating the hit TV show Glee with his talent and good looks, has scored two tickets for the upcoming Super Bowl in Dallas. Chord’s guest is his dad, singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet, whose song credits include Randy Travis’ “On the Other Hand” and Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”

An Idol Thought
All of us like to criticize, don’t we? Sometimes we think we’re smarter than the next person. Lately, I’ve seen where lots of folks are saying, “I’m glad Simon Cowell is no longer judging American Idol. He did not like country music. He said he didn’t like it.”

Well, now, if Simon didn’t like country music, pray tell me, what is Carrie Underwood? Carrie is a country music superstar and the biggest star ever to win American Idol. Simon liked her. Think about it.

Just Joshing
My friend, singer-songwriter Josh Thompson, told me he spent much of the recent holiday season with his mom in Milwaukee. Unlike Thanksgiving, he didn’t go hunting, but he went ice fishing. And he went about it the same way Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau did in the movies, Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men. They have a shack that sits on a frozen lake. They auger a hole in the ice, bait the hook and drop it in the hole. Josh swears they have a heater and build a fire to stay warm and toasty. He told me he caught a bunch of blue gill and some walleye which his mom floured and fried.

“Mighty good eating,” he allowed.

Josh was all excited about writing some songs with John Anderson, calling it his “first time writing with an idol.” And he’s looking forward to hitting the road in February with Dierks Bentley and pleased that his songs are being recorded by others. Jason Michael Carroll recorded “Growing Up Is Getting Old” and Jason Aldean cut “Church Pew or Bar Stool.” When he’s in town, Josh enjoys his log house on some acreage north of Music City.

Josh, The Band Perry, Lee Brice, Jerrod Niemann and Steel Magnolia will perform on the New Faces Show at the upcoming Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. It’s no wonder the private show is already sold out.

I wonder if Josh knows that the great Dobro master, Josh Graves, wrote an instrumental titled “Just Joshing”?

Louvin Brothers’ Music Not Silenced
Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Louvin died at his Bell Buckle, Tenn., home on Wednesday (Jan. 26) after battling pancreatic cancer. The Country Music Hall of Fame member was 83. Charlie and his brother Ira developed a harmony singing style that took them from the cotton fields of Alabama to the top of the country music chart in the 1950s. Like a lot of brother acts, the Louvins had problems that led them to part company as a vocal duo in 1963. Two years later, Ira was killed in an automobile crash. Charlie continued to perform through the end of 2010.

In 2005. several successful artists influenced by the Louvins — including Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard and Dierks Bentley — recorded Livin,’ Lovin,’ Losin’: The Songs of the Louvin Brothers. The album won a Grammy for best country album.

I was just a kid, but I remember seeing the Louvin Brothers perform at Cherry Grove School in Caswell County, N.C. Ira’s piercing tenor and the sibling harmonies never left me. It was Bill Monroe who said, “There’s two tenor singers in music — me and Ira Louvin.”

Stop and Listen
After God and my family, I love the fans of country music more than anything. There are a few fans, however, who do not stop and listen. I do hope those of you who love the music that was named Outlaw music by yours truly in 1973 will go back and listen to country music before the days of Willie, Waylon Jennings, Kristofferson, Merle, Cash, etc.

Please read and understand: Outlaw music was never intended to describe a way of life. It was named to describe the music. The dictionary I used when I looked up the meaning of the word “outlaw” had several definitions. The one that caught my eye read, “Living on the outside of the written law.”

The powerful music these men created was different. Unlike the other music of the day, it had heart and soul and guts, and it drew college kids, farmers, doctors, servicemen and women, the poor, the rich, preachers, jailbirds, nurses, school teachers, astronauts, ranchers, miners, cab drivers, actors and other singers. It really did attract people from all walks of life.

The musicians’ aim was to record songs as much like a live performance as humanly possible. And these musical pioneers did just that.

Let it be shouted from the rooftops that these great men never heard of Pro Tools. They sang with the voices God gave ‘em. If you heard them, you knew who it was. They lived outside the law when it came to the music of their day.

TV Tapings
Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood will be honored at the Girls Night Out: Superstars of Country Music taping in Las Vegas on April 4, the night after the ACM Awards. The show will air at a later date on CBS.

Rascal Flatts taped a live music special from the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn., during their Nothing Like This tour. The concert will air March 12 on ABC.

Montgomery Gentry Healthy and Active
Montgomery Gentry are on the road, but they aren’t on their tour bus. The duo will be returning this week from an eight-day USO/Armed Services Entertainment tour that took them to Korea and Japan.

The night before they left the U.S., they performed at the Grand Ole Opry. It was their first appearance since Eddie Montgomery underwent prostate cancer surgery. Doctors say Eddie cancer is gone — over, kaput. No chemo. No radiation. Praise the Lord!

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1656886"]Vegetable Salad.[/news]