(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.)
Following the rousing success of Music Builds: The CMT Disaster Relief Concert special on Thursday night (May 12) in Nashville, country fans are focused on the good deeds Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and others are doing to help those affected by the recent tornadoes and floods.
Busy preparing for rehearsals for the North American leg of her Speak Now World Tour 2011, Taylor made a most unselfish gesture when she announced her "Speak Now ... Help Now" benefit show taking place Saturday (May 21) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Some 13,000 fans will have the rare opportunity to see Taylor's final dress rehearsal for the tour that kicks off May 27 in Omaha, Neb.
Tickets for this most worthwhile event are $50 (plus taxes and ticketing fees) with 100 percent of the ticket sales going directly to help tornado victims via the Speak Now... Help Now fund established through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. And each attendee will be provided a complimentary commemorative T-shirt from the event. (You could spend $50 for a T-shirt at a lot of rock concerts.)
And despite the tornadoes that ravaged the great state of Alabama, Kenny's May 25 concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater will go on as scheduled. Well, except for one thing. All of the fees for Kenny and his band, plus all earnings for his management and booking representatives, will be donated to GiveTuscaloosa.com, a clearinghouse for local charities and social services founded in the aftermath of the devastating tornado that hit the city on April 27.
After learning of the tragedy, Kenny, his reps and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox briefly considered postponing the concert.
"When we first heard about this tragedy, we were stunned, as we have so many fans in the area and have enjoyed every visit that we've made there over the years," Chesney said. "But Mayor Maddox convinced us that this is a great opportunity to bring the people of Tuscaloosa together in a positive way, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help them in this way."
There are other events and other country stars who are pitching in to help disaster victims, too. As I mentioned last week, Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire are hosting a benefit concert for Oklahoma tornado relief efforts on May 25-26 at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Okla. A second show was added to benefit storm victims in Atoka County.
Video footage from the disaster areas shown during CMT's Music Builds telethon demonstrated exactly how bad things still are in certain areas of the South. The fundraising concert featured performances by Hank Williams Jr., the Blind Boys of Alabama, Trace Adkins, Alabama, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Gretchen Wilson. Lots of other country artists were busy answering the phones and accepting donations to the American Red Cross.
When people are hurting, country stars and fans are always the first to volunteer to help.
Blake and Miranda Lambert Update
By the time you read this, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert will have tied the knot during a weekend ceremony in Texas, but there's other news to report about the couple.
Miranda's recent "Cause for Paws" fundraiser in Tyler, Texas, raised almost $300,000 for MuttNation, her foundation that supports animal shelters, and the Humane Society of East Texas. Since she began the foundation, the Humane Society of East Texas has become a no-kill shelter. More than 7,000 fans attended the outdoor event that featured performances by Miranda and special guests Stoney LaRue and Josh Kelley.
Along the way, Miranda got a new tattoo, a pink paw-print heart placed on the ankle that will sleep next to Blake's ankle.
Sweet as honey is Blake Shelton's new "Honey Bee" music. He's also been getting a lot of national attention for his role as a judge and mentor on NBC's talent competition series, The Voice. Judge Blake is not only the most honest judge on the show, he's by far the handsomest, coolest and smartest.
Spotlight on Shania
The spotlight's on Shania Twain again with Why Not? With Shania Twain (her series on the Oprah Winfrey Network) and From This Moment On (her autobiography). Her painful divorce from record producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, her husband of 14 years, left the singer sad and unsure of herself, but she's brave enough to talk and write about it.
Personally, I'd like to kick Mutt's rich butt from here to Switzerland for betraying Shania like he did.
Sara Evans' Seven-Diamond Mother's Day
According to reports from the road, Sara Evans looks better and sounds better than ever. Her No. 1 single, "A Little Bit Stronger," is the greatest Mother's Day present she ever had. Well, almost. Sara has three children from her previous marriage, and her husband Jay Barker has four from his. So for their first Mother's Day together as a blended family, the kids gathered around while Jay presented Sara a necklace with seven diamonds -- one for each child.
Brad Paisley Gears Up for Album Release
May 23 is a red letter day for country music fans like me who dig Brad Paisley's music. It's the release date for his new album, This Is Country Music. During the release week, look for him pretty much anytime you turn on your TV. He's planning appearances on Good Morning America, The Late Show With David Letterman and The View.
The CMA entertainer of the year launches his H2O II on May 28 at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. Special guests for the 33-city outing include Blake Shelton and Jerrod Niemann with Sunny Sweeney and newcomers Brent Anderson and Edens Edge on the Water World Plaza stage.
Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins at Show Me Fest
Springfield, Mo., hasn't experienced so much country music excitement since Sunny Sweeney hosted The Ozark Jubilee, the first country music series ever on network television. The first-ever Show Me Music and Arts Festival is scheduled there for June 17-19. Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Little Big Town, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Love and Theft, Matt Kennon, Sawyer Brown, Gloriana, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kellie Pickler, Steve Holy, the incredible Joe Nichols and others will be on hand to fill your country heart.
Lots More News
Luke Bryan announced plans for his new album, Tailgates & Tanlines, last week during a video presentation on Facebook. He sang a couple of songs from the project that will be in stores on Aug. 9.
Seven out of the 10 songs on Chris Young's upcoming album, Neon, were penned by the singer. Set for a July 12 release, Chris is ready to perform songs from his three albums when he opens shows during Jason Aldean's sold out My Kinda Party tour.
David Nail will host a flood benefit concert on May 27 at Sikeston High School in Sikeston, Mo., to benefit those affected by the devastation.
More than likely, Justin Moore is the only person in country music who could direct you to Poyen, Ark. His latest hit, "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away," reminds him of his hometown. "It's a hundred acres of working-class," says Justin. "What matters Friday night is ball games. What matters Sunday is church, and what matters the rest of the week is family." Sounds like home to me.
Hall of Fame Plans Chet Atkins Exhibit
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville will honor the late Chet Atkins with a biographical exhibit set to open in August. Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player was made possible by the Gretsch Company, the manufacturer of the guitars he used throughout much of his career. Chet once said, "Years from now, after I'm gone, someone will listen to what I've done and know I was here. ... They'll hear my guitars speaking for me."
I remember Chet's funeral service at the Ryman Auditorium when Garrison Keillor gave a marvelous eulogy. As the pallbearers marched out, there wasn't a dry eye in the bunch. As Vince Gill hugged me, we mixed tears. A great man was gone, and we wept.
Music Before Sunrise
Anyone who wakes up at 5 a.m. to hear Jamey Johnson and the Oak Ridge Boys sing with the Blind Boys of Alabama on Imus in the Morning must love music. Yes, I am a music lover. Maybe that's why it makes me happy that our Mattie Lyn Smith, who just turned 6 years old, confiscated my copy of the Blind Boys' new CD (produced by Jamey) and has it in her daddy's car. Yes, she just turned 6, but she sings like she's 26 -- loud and in tune. Besides Jamey and the Oaks, the Blind Boys' duet CD features Vince Gill, Alabama, Lee Ann Womack and others. "Play Vince, daddy," says Mattie before she starts singing along again.
After church on Mother's Day, my son, Billy, drove me to White Bluff, Tenn., where we chowed down on the finest barbecue ribs on planet Earth. Per Mattie's request, Billy played the CD during the hour long drive out I-40 to McCrory Lane, out Highway 70 to the restaurant, Carl's Perfect Pig, and returned the same route in reverse with Mattie still singing along.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fiesta Rollups.