HOT DISH: Listening to Alan Jackson’s New Album

Shania Buys a Sheep Farm, Lorrie Works the Register and Some Saints Are Recognized

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

Alan Jackson is a shy man and a generous man. I once asked him about the time at Center Hill when his boat conked out midlake. Alan smiled, but he did not deny the story. An old codger with an old ratty boat offered to tow Alan to shore and did. Alan tried to pay the man, but he wouldn’t take money. “S’posed to help folks,” the old man allowed. The next day, the old man was leaned back in a straight chair in his shanty when he heard a noise outside, pushed open the screen door and saw a truck backing in his driveway with a new boat. “Alan Jackson sent it,” the driver said as he drove away. Later, the old man learned the fine boat he pulled ashore belonged to a Nashville singer. “I be dog,” he said and shook his head.

Think of best singer-songwriters in country music, and the Rolls Royces are Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson. Alan’s affair with hits, mostly from his pen, like the incredible “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”or the biggie he didn’t write, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” proves the man knows his business.

“Alan wants to know what you think of his new CD,” someone said to me. Well!

Hearing Alan’s CD What I Do with its songs of life, love, death and truth, you understand why he was named songwriter of the year three times, and you know why the CMA and ACM vote him entertainer of the year and male vocalist of the year again and again. He continues his consistency with the self-penned hit “Too Much of a Good Thing,” followed by a story of lost love “Rainy Day in June,” in tandem with “USA Today.” “If French Fries Were Fat Free” made me smile, and “You Don’t Have to Paint Me a Picture” reminded me of Harlan Howard songwriting. “Monday Morning Church” brought tears, and “Burning the Honky Tonks Down” made me laugh.

From the pen of Dennis Linde — writer of the hit “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks — comes the humorous and clever “The Talkin’ Song Repair Blues,” hillbilly rap from the long-legged wonder that will hit home at junkyards, garages, used car lots, body shops, front yards with jacked up cars, songwriters nights and with Alan fans like me. Alan’s nephew, Adam Wright, wrote the very cool “Strong Enough,” and Adam and wife Shannon co-wrote “If Love Was a River.” A.J. producer Keith Stegall co-wrote “There Ya Go” with Dan Hill. Exclusively for the fans, “To Do What I Do” is an anthem Alan will perform as long as he sings and mean every word. Good stuff, Alan.

Any country fan who has never seen an Alan Jackson concert has missed a real treat.
Alan is the real deal — a class act. The man says he never come to Nashville to go pop.
That’s why What I Do, like all his music, is head and shoulders above most.

Leadership Music Honors Tony Brown
Because he’s so handsome, I call him Tony (wow) Brown. Musician (played piano for Elvis), record exec (MCA, Universal, RCA) and record producer (Vince, Reba, Strait, Buffett, Wynonna, Trisha, et al.), Tony now operates Universal South with Tim DuBois. Tony was recently honored by Leadership Music with a sit-down dinner at the Parthenon in Nashville for 20 years as a show biz leader. A night of stars and accolades, my escort was the ever-so-handsome Fletcher Foster, senior vice president of marketing at Capitol Nashville which gave me a seat at the Capitol table where label prez Mike Dungan held court surrounded by his subjects. It was Brooks & Dunn’s handsome Ronnie Dunn holding my right arm while Fletcher held my left as we moseyed up and down, up and down too many steps, and then CMT’s senior vice president/general manager Brian Philips was there by my side.

Talented and funny Gerry House hosted the event followed by what could be described as a roast (or a eulogy for a non-dead person) by Anastasia (Mrs. Tony) Brown, artist manager Erv Woolsey (George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Dierks Bentley, Andy Griggs), retired MCA Nashville CEO Bruce Hinton, friend Bernie Taupin (Elton John’s lyricist) and eternal pals Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell. Each gave touching and humorous accounts of a talented and lovely man, a leader and visionary who’s given Music City more reasons than anyone I know to be proud of our music.

Eye saw all the above plus singers Amy (the lovely Mrs. Vince Gill) Grant, Alison Krauss and her manager Denise Stiff, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander, Gary Allan, Holly Williams, Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Ann Womack, newcomer Katrina Elam, as well as Tony (wow) partner Tim DuBois, Sony’s Mark Wright, Lyric Street’s Doug Howard with his wife attorney Linda Edell-Howard, ASCAP’s Connie Bradley, BMI’s Paul Corbin, Anderson Merchandising prez Bill Lardie, TV host-singer Donny Osmond, record producer George Massenburg, Universal Music Group’s Luke Lewis, James Stroud and Ken Robold, EMI’s Bill Heard, Vanguard Records’ Steve Fishell, managers T.K. Kimbrell (Toby Keith), Ted Hacker (Darryl Worley) and several hundred others famed and near-famed gawkers and schmoozers. Big night of hugging, sweating and smiling.

Counting Shania’s Sheep
All you hot-bloodied males wasting your sleeping hours fantasizing of Shania Twain
may be interested in knowing the singer has purchased a 17,000-acre sheep farm in
the south of New Zealand. You are more apt to get more sleep counting Shania’s
sheep as they jump the fence instead of counting on her knocking on your door.
I hear Darryl Twain, one of the half-brother’s Shania raised after her mom and stepdad were killed in a vehicle crash, was recently arrested in Edmonton, Ontario, for possession of crack cocaine in his car.

Outside of traffic, there is nothing that holds country music back as much as meetings.
It doesn’t worry me when a sweet voice says, “He’s in a meeting.” Worrying don’t get me down ’cause I remember Moses started out as a basket case. I get mad as a hornet.

Private Listen
It’s not every day a body is privileged to a private listen, but I was. Fans, I cannot wait for you to hear what I heard: a duet by RCA’s newcomer Catherine Britt and Elton John. I kid you not, it’s like George Jones and Tammy Wynette at their best. Britt, a 19-year-old from Australia, could sing the notes off of a page. My dear friend, Renee Bell, senior vice president of A&R for the RCA Label Group, gave me the listen. She also played me Jeff Bates next single, “Long, Slow Kisses.” Lordy, girls, that song will remind you of why you were born a woman. Did me.

Garth Update
When Garth Brooks went to spring training with the Kansas City Royals, he went for his charity Teammates for Kids because he is still in the business of raising money for groups that help needy children. Fans still miss Garth, and Garth admits he still thinks of performing. He’s raising his three daughters. He and Trisha Yearwood are still dating. That’s about all I know on Garth. I did hear that Trisha severed ties with longtime manager Nancy Russell.

The Cashier Looked Familiar
Often I’m asked, “Does Lorrie Morgan actually go to the restaurant Hot that she owns with hubby Sammy Kershaw?” The answer is yes. Last Saturday night Lorrie was holding court with friends and family while smiling at the patrons, working the cash register and actually eating supper. An acquaintance of mine from Battle Creek, Mich., was totally impressed with the fact that the singer graciously autographed a Lorrie T-shirt she’d purchased there. Let me tell you, I eat there often. The chicken is great.

Saints Among Us
Frances Preston is the most powerful woman in the music business, and she’s about to retire as president & CEO of BMI, where she served for 18 years. She’s president emeritus until the end of the year, and then she will take on the role of consultant. Preston opened the BMI office in Nashville in 1958 — almost 50 years ago. All of these accolades are fine and good and wonderful and great. But in my humble opinion, what made this wonderful lady Saint Frances is the fact when great, creative people like the late Bill Monroe, the late Waylon Jennings and the late Harlan Howard were broke and needed money, it was Frances Preston who provided it for them through BMI. I know this is true.

The second is Tim McGraw. Performing a sold-out show in Orlando on Aug. 22 following the devastation of Hurricane Charley, McGraw donated all profits from the concert for hurricane relief efforts and, in my opinion, this unselfish act gives him the title Saint Tim. Was Tim’s deed because his late dad, Tug McGraw, had lived and once played baseball in Florida? Or was it the good heart of a caring, non-greedy country music star? Whatever his rationale, it was good and it was right.

Businessman Bob McLean of Murfreesboro, Tenn., saved the most important guitar in music history, Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5. Inherited from her mother, the late Helen Carter Jones willed the instrument to her son, Danny Jones. McLean says from childhood his family were Grand Ole Opry fans. He loves country music, and he knew in his heart where Mother Maybelle’s guitar belonged. McLean’s financial gift allowed the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to pay $575,000 to purchase the guitar free and clear. Now there’s a saint if I’ve ever heard of one. Saint Bob McLean. The guitar is back in the glass case on the third floor where it’s been since the new museum building opened and where it remain eternally.

Living legends Merle Haggard and Jerry Lee Lewis joined Toby Keith onstage in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Fans ate it up — and so did Toby.

The International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) convenes at the Hilton Suites in downtown Nashville on Oct. 9-13. Music showcases will feature Trent Willmon, B5, Jedd Hughes, Little Big Town, David Lee Murphy, Billy Currington and others.

Simply Christmas With Vince Gill and Amy Grant, the couple’s holiday tour, is set for 19 dates in December. It’s safe to take your children. No dirty talk and no showing body parts!

Kellie Coffey and Ryan Tyler have parted ways with the RCA Label Group.

When Andy Griggs Day was celebrated in Fort Smith, Ark., Andy helped the locals raise money for a support group assisting cancer patients.

Was Good Morning America ready for Big & Rich’s performance? The duo got plenty of attention — and their debut album just went to No. 1 on the country chart.

CMT on Tour: Keith Urban Be Here ’04, the cutie’s first headlining outing, debuts Oct. 8 in Muncie, Ind. He leaves for Australia next week to introduce kangaroos, koalas and country fans to Be Here, his new CD.

Rumors that Kenny Chesney has a new girl in his life are true. Her name is Schuyler and she’s from Detroit, where she walked onstage and sang “When the Sun Goes Down.” Kenny fell hard, but she’s only 5 years old. And that’s too young — even for Kenny.

Jimmy Buffett’s CD, License to Chill, is now certified platinum.

Dierks Bentley met racing great Darrell Waltrip when he waved the flag to start the NASCAR truck series at Nashville Superspeedway — and is still bragging about it.

Terri Clark was performing onstage in California when some 20 hotties took off their shirts and waved them at her. Why am I always at the wrong place?

See the new Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Butterbeans.