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HOT DISH: Trace Adkins -- Looking, Singing and Doing Great
Other Country Music News From Tennessee, Texas, New York and North Carolina
(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 shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

"Trace, you look great," I allowed as the tall guy gave me a smooch. "How you doing?" I wondered.

"Been sober three years," he replied. "Try to exercise every morning. Feel good."

Not only is Trace Adkins a great singer, he has one of the most recognizable voices in country music. When you hear a Trace song on the radio, you know it's him.

The Louisiana native has been through the ropes. Shot by an ex-wife. Overturned a tractor -- with him under it. Stopped by police with an open can of beer in his truck. Yep, Trace had his demons.

But with a record label like Capitol solidly behind him, five daughters and a wife who love him, a manager who takes care of him and a booking agency that keeps him busy, Trace is doing fine. Anything negative is history and only serves to make him wiser and stronger.

Along for celebrating the platinum success of his latest album, Songs About Me, I arrived wearing money green (it seemed appropriate) for the party at City Hall, a warehouse-looking club on 12th Avenue. The room was crawling with TV, radio and news folks like me. Trace saw me and made a beeline. That's when I got my smooch.

Pretty soon, proud label master Mike Dungan, who just took over reins as president of the Country Music Association, took a microphone and told the mob a bunch of stuff about Trace that some of us knew. Then he handed out plaques. Dungan said he was present when Gen. Tommy Franks, a country music fan who was the keynote speaker at the recent Country Radio Seminar, was asked about his favorite song. Without blinking an eye, Franks replied, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."

Rhonda, Trace's wife, sidled up to me with baby Trinity on her hip and said, "Trace said for me to check and see if you needed anything." Love that Trace.

Seems to me that since a badonkadonk is a big butt, it would be fitting and proper if some blue jean company were to haul off and fill a Humvee with copies of Trace's CD for everyone serving in Iraq where Franks led the troops. Since the retired general digs it, maybe those in the field would love to smile, too.

Hall of Fame Honors a Pioneer's Grandson

My grandson, Jeremy, works at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. One day last week when I picked him up from work, he mentioned they'd just had cake and ice cream to celebrate the birthday of an 80-year-old volunteer. Of course, I wanted to know the honoree's identity. "You're gonna love this," Jeremy said. I had to pull over and stop my car for a moment after he told me. The volunteer was Robert Macon, the grandson of one of country music's first superstars, Uncle Dave Macon. If that don't touch your heart, then you do not love country music.

Soup Sunday and a Riverboat Ride

There I sat at the fancy Loews Vanderbilt Plaza hotel judging soup from the finest eateries in Music Town during Soup Sunday, a charity event hosted by the Junior League of Nashville to benefit sexually-abused children. I wound up seated between Tennessee Titans hot newbie Kyle Vanden Bosch and hot Music Row songwriter Craig Wiseman.

Mississippi born and bred, Wiseman is one of the good guys and seems to have never ending ink in his hit songwriter's pen. How famous is Craig? Well, the boy co-wrote "Live Like You Were Dying" for Tim McGraw, "The Good Stuff" for Kenny Chesney and "Believe" for Brooks & Dunn, just to name a few that resulted in lots of zeros being written on his royalty checks.

By the way, Brooks & Dunn almost blew away the crowd on the General Jackson showboat at the RCA Label Group's 20th anniversary concert during the Country Radio Seminar (CRS). The duo performed "Believe" and got the first and biggest standing ovation of the evening.

Watching Chesney standing on the steps of the General Jackson, bird-dogging and applauding Carrie Underwood's performance, I said to the radio dude from Orlando, Fla., "Kenny is eyeballing his opening act for the fall." Another Music Row expert thought Kenny might have romance on his mind. My virtuous mind never had that thought.

Dolly and Oscar

The great Dolly Parton will perform her self-penned "Traveling Through" at the Academy Awards ceremony in March. Written for the Transamerica film soundtrack, the original song is nominated for best original song. Dolly deserved an Oscar for her self-penned "9 to 5" in 1980.

Keith Urban Keeps His Word

What am I going to do with those nieces of mine? Teenagers -- and they fall in love with Keith Urban during his Chapel Hill, N.C., concert.

On his way, Keith stopped off in North Wilkesboro, N.C., and made good a handshake deal from five years ago. Driving by a used car lot in 2001, he spied a 1994 Chevy Impala in mint condition with only 3,000 miles on the odometer. Keith wanted the car so much, so he told the dealer if he'd give him a good deal, he would buy the car and later come back to perform at the Specialty Car Lot. They shook hands and agreed. At the time, Keith had just received his first real money -- his songwriter's royalty check for "But for the Grace of God." The dealer took $2,000 off the asking price.

An all-American Aussie, Keith loves the car. So like an honest Southern boy, he went back and made good a handshake deal. He performed and shook hands with the friends and neighbors like he'd promised.

Paisleys: He's No. 1, She Directs

Brad Paisley's is enjoying his fifth No. 1 single, "When I Get Where I'm Going." Superstar Dolly Parton collaborated with him on the track and wanted to sing the song with him on the CMA Awards. Awards show producer Walter Miller thought Dolly's performance with Elton John would be the highlight of the show, but he was wrong. Brad and Dolly would have been the real highlight.

Brad's wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, is the beauty on the ABC sitcom, According to Jim. I got a copy of an e-mail from the lovely Kim that says she will make her directing debut on Tuesday's (Feb. 28) episode titled "The Grumpy Guy." Kim is way too pretty to be so smart.

What I've Heard Lately

Dierks Bentley did a grand job hosting the Capitol luncheon during CRS, but newcomer Eric Church was the one everybody was talking about when all was said and done.

Performing at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Terri Clark remarked, "I have to keep up with the rest of the divas and do a costume change." With that, she removed her hat!

A couple of days later while in San Antonio for the rodeo, Willie Nelson squeezed in time to visit troops injured in Iraq who are healing at Brooke Army Medical Center. He sang them 22 songs -- for free.

Redbook magazine named Tim McGraw music's hottest husband.

Speaking of Tim, I see where he and the Dixie Chicks are included on the legendary Tony Bennett's upcoming CD of duets.

Not only did our very own Martina McBride sell out Radio City Music Hall in New York, the New York Times called the evening triumphant. Martina kicked off her show with songs from her current platinum album, Timeless, and later fed the crowd her hits. They gave her standing ovations -- which must mean New Yorkers know their country. She blew 'em away by closing with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

The unstoppable Jeff Bates performed a 20-minute set during the New Faces show at CRS with a broken tailbone. The night before, Jeff slipped and fell in front of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. I don't know how he shook his hips. Nothing hurts worse than a broken tailbone. "Show must go on," he said.

It is with much happiness I report that my friend, Sammy Kershaw, has inked a deal with Category 5 Records, the same label Travis Tritt recently became affiliated with. I don't know who Category 5 is, but I pray they've got money and muscle behind them because they have signed two of the best male singers on this planet.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chili (For Hotdogs or Burgers).
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