HOT TALK: More Martina, More Vince, Less Mindy

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

Martina McBride: Dreaming of a Quiet Christmas?
Martina McBride may be totally Santa Claustrophobic by the time her 17-show Joy of Christmas tour wraps up. But she was still able to joke about it the other night when she invited friends and media to a rehearsal hall at the Gaylord Entertainment Center to watch her final run-through. At the same time, in the main arena upstairs, a production of Sesame Street Live was making its own joyful noises.

“We’re going to get this Jerry Springer thing going,” McBride explained several minutes into the show, stepping off the stage and into the audience to chat with kids and cowering adults. Disregarding turned heads and averted eyes, the diminutive vocal powerhouse moved up and down the aisles, talking Christmas with the camera-captured folks whether they wanted to or not. Finally, she invited “young volunteers” to go back on stage with her to hear her read “a cool story”– “The Night Before Christmas.” Then she led the purloined tots in singing carols.

Later in the show, when Santa Claus asked McBride, “Have you decided what you want for Christmas?” the singer zinged, “You mean other than a royalty check from Joe Galante?” (Galante heads McBride’s record label.) It was, except for one dissenting voice, an utterly adoring crowd. As McBride brought the first half of the show to an end with a lush rendering of “The Christmas Song,” a kid (who may or may not still be walking among us) shouted, “Mom, I want to see Sesame Street now.”

Vince Gill Readies His Next Big Thing
Vince Gill ’s next big thing will be a 17-cut album, due out Feb. 4. Still untitled, the collection is his first in two years. In addition to producing it himself, Gill wrote or co-wrote all the songs. While there are no duets as such on the new album, a lot of familiar names provide supporting vocals, among them daughter Jenny Gill, wife Amy Grant, Emmylou Harris , Lee Ann Womack , Michael McDonald, Leslie Satcher, Dawn Sears and Bekka Bramlett. With titles like “Next Big Thing” (which he debuted to the recent CMA Awards show), “Young Man’s Town” and “This Old Guitar and Me,” Gill seems to be in a philosophical mood this time out.

Isn’t it cool, by the way, that so many artists are giving their fans more these days than the usual 10 songs an album? Shania Twain reigns in Up!, of course, with two CDs of 19 cuts each. But Tim McGraw has 15 in Tim McGraw and the Dance Hall Doctors, Faith Hill 14 in Cry and Alan Jackson 13 in Drive. Back in the mid-‘80s, just as vinyl was melting into history, RCA Records introduced — to universal gasps of disbelief — the nine-cut album. That configuration soon followed vinyl out the door.

Mindy McCready Moves On
Capitol Records is absent another “calendar chick.” Tom Becci, the label’s senior vice president of finance and operations, confirms that Mindy McCready is now off the label. Earlier this year, Capitol released McCready’s self-titled album, but it failed to enchant the general ear. The same cannot be said, however, of Capitol’s 2001 Mindy McCready calendar, the August page of which set off a sustained buzz on the question, “Is she or ain’t she nude?” Cyndi Thomson , who quit Capitol and recording altogether, was the star of a gorgeous 2002 calendar, which, to our common sorrow, remained current longer than she did. A spokesman for McCready’s management agency says she has not yet found another label.

In the Category “Best Performance by an Accountant …”
Clear your schedule and prepare to call in sick. Grammy nominees will be announced in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere throughout our fabled realm on the morning of Jan. 7. The torrent of promotional mailings sure to follow these disclosures should keep the U. S. Postal Service in the black until the CMA contenders are revealed.

Well, If You Must Know …
To the reader who asked if Wade Hayes is still married and still looking for a new record deal, Hayes’ manager, Kenny Rothlisberger, answers, “Yes and yes.” Currently, the Oklahoma-born singer is traveling the country with Daryle Singletary and Rhett Akins on the Honky Tonk Tailgate tour.

Publicist Will Help Manage Ronnie McDowell, Tyler Dean
Susan Collier has been named assistant manager of Curb Record artists Ronnie McDowell and Tyler Dean. McDowell is currently promoting his album Ronnie McDowell With Bill Pinkey’s Original Drifters and touring with that legendary vocal group. Dean is McDowell’s 12-year-old son. He is signed to Curb as a pop act and is scheduled to have a single and album out during the first quarter of next year. A longtime Music Row publicist, Collier was appointed to her new post by talent manager Wayne Fricks, who will continue to oversee McDowell’s and Dean’s careers. Collier will keep her current publicity clients.

Grooving at the Gaylord
With a bottle of water costing roughly as much as a lawn tractor, you can’t expect many bargains when you attend a concert at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center. But there’s one bonus you can always count on — hearing lots of great old country records while you’re waiting for the show to start. During recent sojourns there to review George Strait and Alan Jackson, I decompressed to such seldom-played gems as Red Foley ’s “Tennessee Saturday Night,” Floyd Tillman ’s “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin” and Mel Street ’s “Smokey Mountain Memories” and “Borrowed Angel.” Ah, such sweet nostalgia! If I’d been anywhere else, I’d have bought myself a beer.

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Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to