HOT DISH: Womack Makes Music That Matters

Bates and Griggs Pay a Visit, Break Bread and Share Some Songs

(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

With my eyes wide open, I didn’t see it coming. When I slid Lee Ann Womack’s There’s More Where That Came From CD into the slot and pressed the button, I was not prepared for what came out of the speakers. The fiddle intro turned my head and opened my mouth agape in surprise and wonder as I felt the music — felt it the way I felt it with Kitty and Loretta and Dolly and Tammy, music like nobody hardly makes anymore. It was like tasting your favorite dessert. My jaws ached, my chest pulsated, my heart flip-flopped and I felt life all over — like I did when I first crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains for Nashville decades ago.

Fumbling for a tissue to dry my eyes so I could see how and where to sit, I realized my hands actually trembled. Lee Ann Womack is singing the kind of music that brought me here in the first place, and I’m getting those old forgotten, no longer familiar feelings.

“Who in the world had the God-given good sense to produce an album so wonderful?” I asked aloud to my office walls.

It was like the first time I heard a Randy Travis record and asked, “Who had the God-given good sense to produce an album so wonderful?” The answer: Kyle Lehning.

“Who had the God-given good sense to produce Lee Ann the way she should be?” The answer: Byron Gallimore.

Wonders never cease in this business. For instance, prior to Travis, Lehning had mostly produced country-pop records. The same with Gallimore, who has produced Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina, Tim McGraw and Jessica Andrews.

Listen, if you love country music with your heart, you owe it to yourself to own this CD when it’s released Tuesday (Feb. 8). And for those of you who still swear by albums, MCA Nashville has pressed vinyl copies of There’s More Where That Came From.

Of course, I e-mailed MCA Nashville’s head man, Luke Lewis, that the album is great. His answer read something like, “Glad you still have good taste.”

It ain’t my good taste that made the difference. It’s good country music done the way me and God know it’s supposed to be.

Stars in My Face and at My Table
What did I prepare for Jeff Bates and Andy Griggs when they put their feet under my table? Chicken and dumplings, scalloped potatoes, green peas, tasty salad, deviled eggs, corny cornbread, sweet tea, coffee and the world’s best banana pudding.

Jeff and Andy were picking guitars and singing while photographers snapped away in the living room, around the stove, around the food and around the table to get pix for American Profile magazine. The three of us will be all over the supplement and grace the cover around Easter.

It was such fun, listening to Jeff sing the new songs he’s written and recorded for his next CD and listening to Andy picking and singing songs he loves. They talked about hunting and fishing and performing together on the road, and they bragged and bragged on the lunch I made for them. Recently a bridegroom, Andy talks like he’s happily married to Renee. The couple wed a couple weeks ago in Andy’s church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., where he resides.

It’s great when nice guys finish first. I hope I live to see the day these two nice and talented guys are accepting awards and filling halls like Kenny and Toby — ’cause they deserve to be.

Big Kenny Married a Stylist?!
I see where Big Kenny (Alphin) of Big & Rich hauled off and eloped in South Dakota with his stylist, Christiev Carothers, without Muzik Mafia partners John Rich and Gretchen Wilson in attendance. Not even Cowboy Troy or the onstage fidgeting midget were present. The question I want to ask is, “What in the name of style has this woman ever done for Big & Rich?” They’re wearing the same jeans and shirts and hats they’ve always worn. Even Gretchen still wears jeans and a top. How much styling does that take?

Just So You Know What I Know
The Bud Light TV commercial with Tim McGraw and Nelly was not edited in time to make the Super Bowl airing. Hopefully, it will make the Grammy Awards show on Sunday (Feb. 13).

Did you know that Jamie Denton of the sitcom Desperate Housewives is from Goodlettsville, Tenn., down the road where Garth Brooks used to live? And did you know that Jamie grew up next door to Deana Carter? Did you know that Jamie guested on Reba’s sitcom and kissed her on the mouth?

Clay Walker is heading back to California and Pebble Beach for the eighth consecutive time to hit a little ball around with Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, Samuel L. Jackson and Donald Trump. They call it golf.

Kenny Chesney — without a single and without a tour — released Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair and sold 311,000 copies in the first week to go No. 1 on the country and pop charts as the top selling record of the week. Speaking of Kenny, it’s great to know the New York Times had the good taste and good sense to run Phil Sweetland’s fine piece on Chesney’s sales success.

Gretchen Wilson’s February itinerary is wild. She flew to Colorado last week for the T.J. Martell benefit for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research, then jetted to Florida for a Super Bowl appearance with one of her heroes, Charlie Daniels, before flying to Michigan to perform at the casino in Mount Pleasant. Then she returns home to Nashville for all of one day before heading to L.A. for the Grammy Awards. During the last two weeks of February, she will be performing in Australia. It wears me out just thinking about it.

Last week, I asked radio “what are U going to do with Toby Keith’s single, ’Honky Tonk U.'” Well, they played it — and it exploded by debuting at No. 30 on the Billboard country singles chart.

Plumb perfect Vince Gill plans to go into the studio to record new music in the spring. “I want to do the whole nine years,” said Vince. “Record, tour, release singles.” Laughing, he added, “I have no choice when it comes to making music for a living. That’s all I know.”

Darryl Worley’s Home Furnishings has opened in Enterprise, Ala., with the finest in furniture, custom cabinets and appliances. Darrell will make an appearance for the grand opening on Feb. 19. The store will feature the Wall of Heroes, a collection of photos and memorabilia from his trips entertaining the troops.

One of the all-time greats, Art Stamper, who fiddled with Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley,
the Goins Brothers and others, passed away recently following a long battle with throat cancer.

Tracy Byrd hosts the Ace Hardware Celebrity Golf Shoot-out this Wednesday (Feb. 9) in Honolulu. Who wouldn’t want to do that gig?

Julie Roberts celebrated the gold success of self-titled CD with a party at the Mirror restaurant in Nashville.

During an interview with WFMS-FM/Indianapolis this week, Trace Adkins said if anybody wanted to know anything about him, to ask his friend, Hazel Smith. “When can we expect your next album?” Trace drawled, “Ask Hazel.”

Marty Stuart and Connie Smith allows that I knew they were an item before they did. I broke the news that Patty Loveless and Emory Gordy Jr. were an item. I broke the news when Martina McBride was pregnant with her second child. I heard Brad Paisley’s latest album, Mud on the Tires, before officials at his label. Lastly, I broke the news at when Sara Evans gave birth to baby Audrey.

Adding a family touch and giving a shot in the arm, big Alan Jackson made a cameo appearance in the Wrights’ video, “Down This Road.” Alan’s nephew Adam Wright and his wife Shannon penned all 12 songs on their debut album.

Did you see Alison Krauss on the cover of USA Weekend? Having won 17 Grammys — more than any female in all music genres — Alison was questioned about the whereabouts of her awards. Alison told the writer she kept them in her parents living room at their home in Illinois. “When they go out of town, they hide them in the laundry room,” said Alison. “In the dirty clothes,” she kidded. Alison is a presenter at this year’s Grammy Awards taking place Sunday (Feb. 13) in Los Angeles.

Hottie Keith Urban had two shows booked at the Ryman for March 17-18, and the tickets sold out in 10 minutes. So they added a third show for the March 19 — and it sold out
in 45 minutes.

Jo Dee Messina is shooting a video in L.A. for “My Give a Damn’s Busted.”

The Bellamy Brothers have hooked up with some of country’s superstars for their 46th album, Angels & Outlaws Volume 1. Dolly, Willie, John Anderson, the great Bobby Bare, Alan Jackson, Montgomery Gentry, Tanya Tucker and Charlie Daniels are just a few who offered their talents to the project set for a March 29 release on Curb Records.

Word has it Faith Hill is finishing up her album — and it is country. Hope so.

Tony (wow) Brown is producing Cross Canadian Ragweed for Universal South.

Cledus T. Judd’s four-bedroom, four-bath house in Brentwood, Tenn., is for sale for $659,900.

The great Loretta Lynn is the subject of a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Centering around her album, Van Lear Rose, the display will include her handwritten lyrics to the song.

This above item gives me another chance to remind lovers of country music of the need for resources at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There is nothing more worthwhile in our lives than country music’s history. The history is alive and well at the Hall of Fame. There’s no better place to give and give generously.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Sweet Potato Pudding.