HOT DISH: Pistol Annies, Rascal Flatts, Eric Church Top the News

More About Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Toby Keith 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 CMT.com.)

The Pistol Annies, that hot new all-female trio that’s about to fill the empty slot left after the Dixie Chicks flew the coop, are dead-eye serious. As a matter of fact, the gals shot a video just this past week. I predict those pistol packin’ mamas will meet Mr. Chart-Topper in the not-too-distant future. The three beauties, of course, are singer-songwriters Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.

Rascal Flatts’ Double Celebration
Rascal Flatts had plenty to celebrate last week at a party commemorating their latest No. 1 single, “I Won’t Let Go,” written by Jason Sellers and Steve Robson. Midway through the celebration, though, they were surprised with the news that Nothing Like This, their first album after moving to Big Machine Records, is now certified platinum for shipments of 1 million copies.

Band member Jay DeMarcus said, “With God’s help, we have been able to bring together a wonderful group of people to surround and reinvigorate our career. We are living a dream come true.”

With a spiritual message like “I Won’t Let Go” and a wonderful wife like Allison DeMarcus, I can assure you, Jay meant every word he said.

Eric Church Is Chief of the Charts
Thanks to the 144,990 fans who purchased Chief, the brand new album by Eric Church, it’s obvious that following him is no longer the road less traveled. It’s pretty high cotton when you hit the top spot on the country chart — and the Billboard 200 chart that includes all styles of music.

Giving credit where credit is due, Capitol Records Nashville’s leader of the pack, the jovial Mike Dungan, has pushed and shoved and wined and dined on behalf of his entire roster, and he’s done it again for Eric.

Wearing his dark glasses or not, Eric thanks his fans. I suggest you try Church.

Kenny Chesney Hitting NYC Area
With a concert scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 13) at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Kenny Chesney has already sold well over 44,000 tickets to what’s going to be the biggest country show in the New York City area since Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Linda Ronstadt attracted a crowd of 51,000 in 1983.

I read where somebody wondered if Kenny is taking over New York City. Boy, is that writer ever far behind.

Kenny’s concerts and his all-American music is ear candy for those Big Apple folks who love honesty and truth in songs. New York City has always had country music fans. It was just that no one seemed to know how to program the radio airwaves there. Watch the morning television shows that feature country stars, and just look at all the fans who show up to see them. Somebody needs to program a country radio station there.

Toby Keith Gets Ready for Clancy’s Tavern
I remember years ago when Toby Keith told me the story how every year when school was out, he’d ride a bus to his grandmother’s house and spend the summer there. His grandma ran a bar. In his younger days, Toby would wash dishes, clean up the place and do other chores.

That bar inspired the title song of his upcoming album, Clancy’s Tavern. The song’s lyrics kill me. I can just see a young boy — 10 years old or younger — getting off the Greyhound and shuffling down the street to grandma’s house, where she filled the glasses to the brims for the drinkers and knew all their names.

Is it any wonder this self-made man is the top earning country music maker, according to Forbes?

The album hits the streets Oct. 25.

George Strait Is Here for a Good Time
Some call him the King of Country, while others call him the Cowboy. I’m talking about a great friend and a hero, George Strait, who is releasing his 39th album, Here for a Good Time, on Sept. 6. Wait until you read the names of songwriters on the album — Dean Dillon, George’s son Bubba and the big man himself.

George Strait is country music royalty, and don’t you forget it.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Working to Expand
While the politicians in Washington — Republicans and Democrats alike — were acting like half-raised middle school children, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum launched a $75 million capital campaign to finance the museum’s expansion in downtown Nashville.

“I’m Working on a Building” is a bluegrass gospel song I must have heard Bill Monroe sing a thousand times. During the silent phase of the museum’s Working on a Building campaign, $56.8 million in cash and pledges were secured. More than $48 million of the total comes from donors who truly love country music, I might add.

I suggest the Washington politicos take some hillbilly lessons from the wonderful folks who love country music and its history. Just so you know, Steve Turner, chairman of the museum’s board of officers and trustees, and his wife Judy led the way with a donation of $6.5 million.

The announcement was made in the Ford Theater at the museum. In attendance were Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford, Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs and fiddler Buddy Spicher. Ricky sang “I’m Working on Building,” and Spicher played the fiddle like he did with Monroe.

Question: Instead of fussing and accusing, why can’t our politicians contact folks like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (and others with zillions of dollars) to find out how they solve their financial problems and ask for their advice on raising money for our government? And there are all those countless millions we’ve given and given overseas that nobody ever paid back. We’d be more than even if those folks would cough up what they owe us.

An Incredible Read
In her just released book, The Words and Music of Dolly Parton, author Nancy Cardwell correctly calls the singer, songwriter and businesswoman an “iron butterfly.” If you love Dolly and her music, you will want a copy of this just-released book. Soft as a baby’s sigh, tough as steel, Nancy touched on Dolly’s life, and it’s all there between the pages with wonderful black-and-white photos of young Dolly, maybe at age 10, wearing her first wigs, some bigger than the cabin she was born in. Dolly and Nancy have a wonderful project.

Friends Pay Tribute to the Late Kenny Baker
The late Bill Monroe called Kenny Baker the greatest fiddler in bluegrass music. And he was. The team of Monroe and Baker will never be equaled. Two Kentucky legends were strong and determined like a Derby horse.

Kenny recently died at 87. He’d promised to play “Pass Me Not” at my funeral, but he didn’t live that long. Those of us who heard Kenny play the song have a strong feeling that music in heaven will most likely sound like that. Somebody’s got to do it.

The great Bobby Osborne of the Osborne Brothers duo hosted a tribute to Kenny at the Ernest Tubb Theater. The room, filled to overflowing, included award-winning fiddler Aubrie Haynie, who can even play “Jerusalem Ridge.”

More News
I heard a rumor that Robert Plant has purchased a house in Nashville somewhere in the Madison/Opryland Hotel/Inglewood area. That means the man has class, like me. That’s my neck of the woods.

Have you heard about the Blake Shelton Cruise on the Norwegian Jewel in 2012? Setting sail from Miami with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola and Nassau, it sounds heavenly. I wanna go.

Loretta Lynn returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage after being hospitalized recently because of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Singer-songwriter Randy Houser has announced his engagement to singer-songwriter Jessa Lee Yantz. Good luck, much happiness, and God bless you, Randy.

The Oak Ridge Boys will release their new CD, It’s Only Natural, through the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant chain on Sept. 19. The album features five new songs and seven rerecorded hits, including their monster smash, “Elvira.”

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1668563"]Oven French Fries.[/news]