HOT DISH: A Christmas Kiss From Kix Brooks

Country Stars Celebrating the Holidays in and Around Nashville

(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 shares her recipes at

Yes, I did get a Christmas kiss from Kix Brooks — and I’m bragging about it. Realizing that everybody is not so lucky, I’ll explain.

Clarence Spalding, who manages Brooks & Dunn, Terri Clark and a stable of other country artists, has been a “howdy” friend of mine for almost three decades. A native of Bardstown, Ky., Clarence invited me to his Christmas party. I said, “OK,” thinking he’d never remember it. But nooo … not only did Clarence remember, he sent a limo to deliver me to his beautifully decorated estate located a rock’s throw from a main Music City drag but far enough away to get away from the traffic noises. Clarence, the newly-elected president of the CMA’s board of directors, and his wife Ann bought the house and something like five acres, and she immediately went to work in turning the 1927 circa estate into a hillbilly dream.

At the party, Reba McEntire proved once again that she’s much more beautiful in person than she is on TV. When she arrived with hubby Narvel Blackstock and son Shelby, she made a beeline into the living room and gave me a big holiday hug. That Reba! She is so down-home Oklahoma, she totally ignores show-biz compliments but was into the Spalding house big time — and I learned why.

As Narvel told me, on their drives back home after visits to the Spaldings, Reba would remark, “Did you see how Ann decorated the mantle? I wish my mantle looked like that.” So Narvel hired Ann to decorate their house.

Mike Dungan, head of Capitol Nashville and chairman of the CMA’s board, and his lovely wife Jane gave me a hug, and Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts nodded howdy. But that cute Kix Brooks made my holiday when he gave me a Christmas hug and kiss.

Thanks Clarence for the fun, the food, the fine transportation and the years of friendship.

Yule Music
Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Willman fairly blew me away with his list of “18 Xmas Tunes Yule Love.” His No. 2 choice was “Christmas Time’s A-Coming” by Bill Monroe. As it turned out, the magazine arrived in the mail along with a Christmas card from the song’s author, Tex Logan, a marvelous fiddle player who resides in Madison, N.J., with wife Peggy.

Joe Nichols Comes to My House
Rogers, Ark., native Joe Nichols still wears shirts emblazoned with the Arkansas Razorbacks logo. He knows when the house smells like his grandma’s kitchen. And he’s nice and handsome and has all the makings of a superstar. Maybe 2007 will be his year.

Joe came to my house and taped a guest spot for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith, and we had a big ol’ time. I learned he prefers home cooking such as chicken pie, which I made along with a whole bevy of down-home fixings. I didn’t get around to asking if he went to college. If he did, he didn’t get enough education to ruin his country manners or his country singing.

Joe resides on 40 acres. His uncle looks after things for him, and Joe will work anytime anybody gives him an offer. Let’s not forget his sense of humor. He said, “I’ve got a bottle of tequila in the car for you, Hazel.” In light of Joe’s hit titled “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” I found that very funny.

Kenny Winds Down 2006 With No. 1 Party
Kenny Chesney continued to wind down the year with a No. 1 celebration at ASCAP for his recording of Craig Wiseman’s “Summertime.” And as Luttrell, Tenn.’s favorite son took the trophy, he reached for another “Beer in Mexico,” the title of his current single and the one I told you he wrote beside Sammy Hagar’s pool when invited to the rocker’s birthday bash in Mexico. Does that mean Kenny can claim the trip as a business expense when he prepares his income tax return? Just trying to help.

Paisleys Remain Home on the Farm
Expectant parents Brad and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the cutest couple in show biz, plan to stay on their Tennessee farm for Christmas and enjoy their new home. Brad says pretty much all of Kim’s relatives are traveling from upstate New York, and most of his West Virginia kin will come down, as well. I recently received a nice note from Brad’s dad saying he has retired.

Rumors From Trick Pony Corral
Rumor has it, Trick Pony’s experience in making their final album was unpleasant, to say the least, during the live recording sessions at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon. From what I’ve heard, it seems band members Keith Burns and Ira Dean are not happy with former partner Heidi Newfield, who is going solo. Things didn’t get any prettier as the night progressed. Montgomery Gentry dropped by, but the crowd was sparse for the three announced shows. Also rumored: Burns and Dean have found a pretty new singer and are searching for a new name for the group.

Looking To 2007
Tim McGraw’s new music video for “Last Dollar” will be the first video played in 2007 on CMT.

Steve Azar is set to keep rocking on the road with Bob Seger through February.

Blake Shelton’s fourth album, due out in March, is titled Pure BS. Don’t you love it?!

The only blood brothers in the Statler Brothers — Harold and Don Reid — have taken on the task of writing a book next year.

Trace Adkins will kick off his Dangerous Man tour on Feb. 2 in Fairfax, Va., with special guests Craig Morgan and Danielle Peck.

Chris Cagle and Jamie O’Neal will join Tim McGraw for the Country Cruise Getaway aboard the Carnival Liberty set for Jan. 28-31.

Toby Keith’s Hookin’ Up and Hangin’ Out tour kicks off Jan. 25 in Albany, N.Y., with guests Miranda Lambert and Flynnville Train opening. By the way, Lambert’s new CD, Gunpowder and Lead will be released early spring 2007.

The Broken Bridges DVD starring Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds, and Lindsey Haun will be in stores Jan. 9.

Alan Jackson will serve as honorary chairman of the first Jupiter Billfish Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., on Jan. 10-12.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Collards.