HOT DISH: Alison Krauss Visits My Kitchen

Santa Claus Is Real for Lots of People in Country Music

(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.)

Having Alison Krauss in my kitchen was a great Christmas present for me. Not only has the woman won more Grammy Awards than any other female in history, she is one of the funniest and nicest people and one of the most talented singer-musicians around.

Having recently released an already-gold duo CD, Raising Sand, with Led Zeppelin’s rocking frontman, Robert Plant, the twosome will be touring in Europe and the U.S. Alison says she and Robert will perform with the six-piece band that recorded the record with them, including T Bone Burnett, who also served as producer of the project. Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas will not travel as a group during 2008. However the multi-talented individuals who make up the award-winning band will be on the road individually and collectively. You can bet your life that come 2009, the band will be back on the road. Together again!

Yes, Alison was in my kitchen shooting CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith. The menu consisted of chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, pinto beans, a salad (of lettuce, tomatoes, avocados and sour cream) and a four-layer chocolate pie for dessert. Which item did she ask for extra to take home? Just like North Carolina country girl Kellie Pickler and CMT host Katie Cook, Alison wanted a bowl of pinto beans. Of course, my son, Billy, dished her up some beans. I keep cooking those beans. Folks love ‘em.

Alison allowed how my wonderful CMT producer, Shane Caldwell, rang her up and read the CMT.com column item I wrote about her a couple months ago. She really made me feel humble when she said it was the best article ever written on her. I don’t know how good it was, but I do know how true it was.

Thanks, Alison, for the music, the fun and for coming to see us. All of us at CMT are so proud of you and proud to call you our friend. And, hey, we can’t wait until the wonderful CMT Crossroads show you taped with Robert Plant premieres on Feb. 11.

Alison is no doubt playing “Christmas Times a-Comin’” on her fiddle while awaiting Santa.

Don’t Try to Tell Me There Is No Santa
The fact that I am still alive and kicking and working daily with wonderful people such as CMT’s Shane Caldwell, Martin Clayton (the dude who hired me to write this column), Chet Flippo and Calvin Gilbert, I know each and every blessed day that there is a Santa Claus. As further proof, I got a Christmas card from George (and Nancy) Jones and Loretta Lynn. Keep reading, friends, because there’s been a lot to be happy about this year.

Thanks to the round little man in the red suit trimmed in white, Brad Paisley became a superstar in 2007 and celebrated two No. 1 hits within four months of each other. Since day one, I’ve always said Brad has the same quirky sense of humor as the late Roger Miller. Brad’s latest No. 1, “Online,” is as far-out as Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” and his previous chart-topper, “Ticks,” is as crazed and funny as Miller’s “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.” Brad’s daring lines and subject matter stand on their own. When it comes to songwriting, no one else is even close to his humor these days. Santa did give Brad some co-writers — guys like Chris DuBois, Tim Owens and Kelley Lovelace — to work with on those songs.

Brad left his recent No. 1 party singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” while holding his wife Kim’s hand and heading to the house to see his biggest reason to celebrate this year — his son Huck. I’d wager the proudest man on planet Earth, though, is Brad’s father, Doug Paisley of Glen Dale, W.Va. The entire Paisley family must be singing “Mary, Did You Know?”

Tanya Tucker’s house in Malibu, Calif., was spared from the fires, so she, her two daughters and her niece are hitting the road with the Imperials, Elvis’ backup vocal group, for a holiday tour that ends Dec. 23 at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. They’ll no doubt follow Santa’s sleigh all the way and sing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

Other big believers in 2007 included Big Machine Records and its staff, including Scott Borchetta, John Zarling and the whole kit and caboodle. Hitting big time with Taylor Swift, stirring up dust with Jack Ingram, releasing music by the great Trisha Yearwood and getting radio airplay for Garth Brooks, the Big Machine continues to be the little machine that could. The last I heard, they were counting money and keeping time to “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”

Nashvillians Across the Atlantic
Several Nashvillians attended the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert in London as guest of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and his wife, Mo. Jones, who is a huge fan of bluegrass and folk music, sent the invitations to John Carter and Laura Cash, Ronnie and Allison McCoury, Robbie and Lisa McCoury, Dave “Fergie” Ferguson, Gary Paczosa, Chris Etheridge, Bela Fleck, John Cowan and Nickel Creek’s Sara and Sean Watkins.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Four-Layer Pie.