HOT DISH: Easing Into Country Music’s New Year

Brad Paisley, Mindy McCready and Steve Holy Are in the News in Early 2008

(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

Talk about a slow time for news. Even the daily newspaper is looking puny. The parties are over, the New Year has arrived and we’re gearing up to see who is divorcing, marrying or dying in 2008.

The only news I know that you don’t know is that Brad and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, along with baby Huck and a few close friends, flew off to spend New Year’s Eve in L.A. Ain’t nothing as cool as hillbillies with money.

The arrival of 2008 finds Kenny Chesney in the driver’s seat. The CMA and ACM’s reigning entertainer of the year, Kenny sold more concert tickets than any other country act in ’07 — followed by Tim McGraw/Faith Hill and Rascal Flatts. This, too, will eventually pass. Remember when George Strait was filling the stadiums, back when Kenny, Faith and Tim were his opening acts? Who will be the next act? Brad Paisley is filling major venues, Dierks Bentley is looking real good and Carrie Underwood is selling records like hotcakes.

By the way, I saw an interesting photo taken at the Nashville Predators hockey game just before the holidays of Carrie, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift. I stared at that photo until my eyes clouded over. Yes, it was Carrie, Kellie and Taylor, but all I could think of was how long ago was it when Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette were in photos together?

Nobody associated with Music City show biz is as hot as Miley Cyrus. The daughter of Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, Miley is the hottest act in America today. The singer-actress has taken Hollywood and the nation’s entire population of teens and tweens by the heart.

Steve Martin, Earl Scruggs and the Prez
Sorry if you missed the Kennedy Center Honors telecast which aired late December. The entire two-hour show was really good, but it became great when multi-talented Steve Martin was honored by his mentor, banjo wizard Earl Scruggs, guitarist Randy Scruggs and fiddler Mark O’Connor. Even the prez and first lady gave our musicians a standing ovation.

Nicole Kidman Pregnancy Rumors Abound
U.K.’s Daily Mail has reported Nicole Kidman is pregnant, claiming she and hubby Keith Urban told Aussie friends and family. Kidman’s publicist told the media in Australia, “It is incorrect.” Referring to the flurry of speculation, the publicist added, “She must have had about 30 babies by now.”

Mindy McCready Out of Jail
Back in September, Mindy McCready was given a one-year jail sentence for violating parole from a 2004 drug conviction. Even though she cried and begged to stay with her baby, I found it hard to offer sympathy to Mindy, who had not only misbehaved scandalously but had abused an illustrious career until it was no more. After serving a little more than three months, the 32-year old Mindy was released from jail on Dec. 30. It is my hope that she’s learned a lesson and will behave herself. She’s still under a two-year probation.

Toby Keith News
Toby Keith and members of his family received a $2.8 million settlement in the 2001 traffic accident that killed his father, H.K. Covel, but I don’t think the money was what the wrongful death and negligence case was about. In my heart of hearts, I firmly believe that Toby’s mother, Carolyn Covel, and her children, including Tonni Covel and Tracy Covel, set out to prove that H.K. was not at fault in the accident that took his life. H.K. was an all-American, flag waving former Marine with a wife and children who adored him. He loved his family with a passion, and his family had to find out the truth — and they did. In a court of law, it was proven he was not at fault.

In February and March, Toby will be shooting the movie, Beer for My Horses, at locations in Las Vegas and New Mexico. Friends Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent and Mel Tillis will have on-screen roles in the film.

Steve’s Un-Holy Companions
Did you read the article in the Dallas newspaper about Steve Holy and a couple of guys — drinking buddies who happened to be off-duty policemen? Steve and a pal met the un-holy two at a Dallas bar through a policeman friend. They began drinking together, and Holy later invited them to his house to play foosball in his garage. After his police friend left, a 911 call was placed at 5:30 a.m. after one of the officers became belligerent and held Holy at gunpoint. Both officers were placed on administrative leave.

More Tidbits
John Michael Montgomery, the latest country singer to start his own record label, sent an e-mail saying he is in the studio with producer Byron Gallimore (Tim McGraw, Faith Hill). John Michael hopes to release his first single for Stringtown Records in February.

Bear Family Records has released a five-CD boxed set by the great George Jones containing all 150 of his United Artists Records recordings from the ’60s. Instead of going to college, I suggest that you wannabe singers invest in this set and learn how to sing.

Marty Stuart and Connie Smith will help induct Charlie Daniels as a Grand Ole Opry member on Jan. 19 at the Ryman Auditorium.

Keith Urban and Russell Moore are special guests on Rhonda Vincent’s just released album, Good Thing Going.

Don’t forget to watch Alison Krauss when she joins me in my kitchen for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith when it airs Saturday (Jan. 12) at 6 p.m. ET/PT and Sunday (Jan. 13) at 3 p.m. ET/PT.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Corn Chowder.