(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.)
Did you see the beach photos of Carrie Underwood last week on one of the Internet sites? I did. Talk about a real beauty in a bikini! No boyfriend in sight, just Carrie, sand and sun. There's nothing trashy about our Carrie. Like country music, she's the real, first-class deal.
The great thing about these candid photos is they were not smiley or posed. Carrie was not all made up. People were around her enjoying the sun, salt and sea. She was just a natural beauty taking it all in, apparently being left alone on a day of rest.
Hey, anyone who pokes fun of Carrie being a vegetarian, you need to know that she's not the first. A huge female star who sold millions of CDs is also a veggie. Her name is Shania Twain, and she's raising her son, Eja, to eat the same.
Jessica Simpson's Fans and Friends
At the Country Thunder USA festival in Twin Lakes, Wis., Jessica Simpson wore short cut-off jeans, shirt, cowboy boots and a smile, and you've probably heard that a handful of fans booed her when she walked onstage for her debut country concert. On the other hand, several radio executives and a Chicago newspaper have all reported that there was no shortage of applause once she began performing. In view of the fact that boyfriend Tony Romo's family and friends reside just 25 miles away and drove over to Twin Lakes, could that fact add to the applause? Oh yeah, Tony was at the festival, too, and I would assume he applauded her. She has applauded him and the other Dallas Cowboys at his football games.
Jessica has made friends with legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. Willie and Dolly are as smart as they come in any music genre. So if they like Jessica, I'm prone to think she ain't all bad.
Hey, Washington Post
Washington Post writer J. Freedom du Lac wants somebody to explain to him Kenny Chesney's enduring appeal, his phenomenon. Two words, du Lac. Great songs! This is country music. Country songs speak through ears only to those with a heart to hear. My guess, du Lac, is that you just might understand this.
I'm Hearing Eli Young Band and the Road Hammers
Everywhere I look, everywhere I go and every time I listen to the radio, I hear the Eli Young Band. I don't know anything about these guys, but it seems like they're worth observing.
And I am also hearing about the Road Hammers. Who are these acts? Where are they from? Do they like Willie and Waylon and bluegrass?
Lo and behold, I hear that "Little E" -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- owns a bar in Charlotte, N.C., called Whiskey River. I don't think it has anything to do with the song of the same title that Willie always opens his shows with. My guess is that it's a bar where you can drink whiskey and hear country music on the jukebox.
The upcoming "Just Vince" tour will take the Gill to 41 cities. You won't want to miss plumb perfect Vince Gill when he comes to your town. Vince, the most loved person in country music.
Alan Jackson's Dyed-in-the-Wool Success
This is not a rumor, it's a dyed-in-the-wool fact that big Alan Jackson has sold 50 million albums, and I'm here to tell you there ain't a dud in the bunch. A.J. does not know how to write or sing a bad song. Like George Strait, Alan Jackson is as good as we got.
You Can Trust Randy Travis
You can always trust Randy Travis to record great country songs. I can hum ever single Randy ever released. Randy boasts the highest chart debut of his career with the No. 3 entry of Around the Bend, his first full-blown country CD in eight years. Song choice and production credit go to the Kyle Lehning, the great producer who continues to work with Travis after more than two decades. As a matter of fact, Kyle told me he flew up to New York with Randy when he appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Shoot yeah, I found out about the New York trip while dining with Kyle at Ruth's Chris restaurant. I frequent all the happening places with all the happening men.
Gary Allan Buys a Sandwich
A bevy of gawkers watched as Gary Allan's tour bus driver wedged the home on wheels through a small intersection in the heart of downtown Philadelphia following their performance on Kenny Chesney's Poet's & Pirate's concert at the local stadium. Why on earth would they attempt such a trying trip? Hillbillies in the know appreciate the original Philly cheese steak sandwich from Pat's King of Steaks, a culinary landmark in Philly since 1930. A visit is something you just do when you're in the 'hood. So the gawkers gawked as 10 people exited Gary's bus and walked to the window of the eatery that was actually smaller than the vehicle they were traveling in.
Kid Rock Ignites Fuse
The Fuse, a Las Vegas-styled nightclub, opened at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and Kid Rock flew into Music Town so he could practice his old habits -- spinning records from the '80s. Kid Rock started working as a club DJ when he was a mere 12 years old, and they tell me he's still good at the turntable. I heard that members of Lonestar turned out for the grand opening, as did Trent Tomlinson, Ty Herndon and Kid Rock's Nashville PR dude, Kirt Webster. Also in attendance was Hollywood's Kim Kardashian of the partying K-sisters. Now, Kim is the sis with the big famous behind, while sister Khloe Kardashian is the one who recently spent an entire three hours in jail in Los Angeles for violating her parole on a DUI conviction.
A Personal Note
Pardon me if it looks like I'm bragging, but I'm so excited that the Grascals' new album, Keep on Walking, has debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's bluegrass chart. Most of you know that my son, Terry Smith, is a member of the band.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Mound Brownies.