HOT DISH: Melissa Lawson Scores as Nashville Star

Jessica Simpson Charms Radio, Jewel Gets Hitched, Urbans Visit Australia

(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.)

“Melissa Lawson, mother of five young boys is as good as any singer on Music Row.” That’s what I wrote in this column last week. And on Aug. 4, she won this season’s Nashville Star competition while her husband John and the boys — ages 11 months to 8 years — looked on in the audience.

The Arlington, Texas, native had never been out of the country before, except for a trip to Cancun on her honeymoon, but she was scheduled to depart on Friday (Aug. 7) for Beijing, China, where she will perform her single, “What If It All Goes Right,” at the Olympics while millions watch. All three finalists — Lawson, Gabe Garcia and Shawn Mayer — recorded the song, and the winner’s version was available on iTunes by midnight on the day of the show. Lawson’s album will be released on Warner Bros. Records. John Rich, who judged the show along with Jeffrey Steele and Jewel, produced the single and says Lawson’s version was the best of the three. Melissa will be on the Nashville Star tour when it kicks off in St. Louis on Sept. 12.

Jessica Simpson Apologizes to Mr. Strait
Jessica Simpson and her dad showed up Thursday morning (Aug. 7) at WFMS-FM in Indianapolis with no huge entourage — and no ego at all! She said during an interview that she feels like a new artist starting over again. “Being from Texas, I’ve always been a fan of country music,” she said on the air.

And Jessica also told about being seated behind George Strait at the 2007 CMA Awards show in Nashville. When her dad, Joe Simpson, stood up, his butt hit the brim of Strait’s hat. “I had to apologize to Mr. Strait,” she said. Jessica was in Indy to appear at the state fair.

Confirming the Word on Chuck/Julianne Connection
Word has it — and I’ve confirmed it: Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough are an item. For sure and for certain, they are two pretty people. I hear they were kissing at the Ryman Auditorium. That ain’t nothing new. Why, I’ve done some serious kissing in the Ryman myself! It is convenient for Chuck and Julianne to be opening shows on Brad Paisley’s current tour.

Jewel Marries Her Cowboy Man
Don’t you think Jewel and her cowboy man Ty Murray could be and should be the 2008 version of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans? Remember how Roy and Dale hung out together for years? Roy would kiss the horse, and Dale would look beautiful? Don’t we need a real western TV show or movie today with horse riding and yodeling? Ty rides and Jewel yodels. When I was talking to Jewel recently, she described Ty as “a real stand-up guy like John Wayne.” Since Jewel and Ty got married Thursday (Aug. 7) maybe they can kiss on camera — just like Roy and Dale.

Keith and Nicole, L.A. and Australia
The Los Angeles Times reports that Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman have purchased a cool new place in Beverly Hills for $4,795,000. The house is in a gated community surrounded by other celebs, sits on a 1-½ acre lot, has five bedrooms, 4-½ baths and is sunny and bright with lots of glass.

Nicole will star in the film version of the Broadway smash hit Nine, which is expected to feature Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren and Judi Dench.

Meanwhile, Nic and Keith flew to Sydney so baby Sunday Rose could meet Nicole’s dad and Keith’s parents. Nicole’s mother and sister were in Nashville when the baby arrived in July. During a TV interview on Sydney’s Kyle & Jackie O show, Nicole appealed to the press to give them space to walk around and show the baby their town. Nic says she looks like Keith, and Keith says she’s awesome. The couple refuses to sell their family photos. Nicole is in Sydney to take photos with Hugh Jackman for her upcoming film, Australia.

Is Jamey Johnson the Next Big Thing?
Rave reviews are popping up all over for Jamey Johnson‘s new CD, That Lonesome Song. They’re calling him “the next big thing,” “the next Waylon” and comparing the Montgomery, Ala., native to George Jones and even the late Roger Miller.

He’s an ex-Marine and an ex-husband who got drunk one night and went out to Hank Williams‘ grave. While singing, he bounced his guitar off the tombstone and cracked the instrument. He refuses to fix it, though. Folks have offered to fix it for free, but he says no. He loves Jones, Don Williams and Willie Nelson. He met Willie, but he never met Waylon or Johnny Cash. His 4-year-old daughter is his best friend. His self-penned song “In Color” is a hit. And his album is the one everybody on Music Row is raving about.

Carrie Underwood Wins Teen Choice Award
Carrie Underwood picked up the Red Carpet Fashion Icon Female award at the 2008 Teen Choice Awards last week. Miley Cyrus hosted the event and grabbed a couple for herself, for female music artist and comedy actress.

Walk on Brooks & Dunn
Brooks & Dunn have been awarded a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Stars. Is Kix Brooks the only person to run with the bulls in Spain and get his name on the Hollywood Walk of Stars within a year? Just wondering.

Everybody’s Got One
An opinion is like a mouth or another orifice: Everybody has one. A few of my contemporaries at CMT.com decided their Top 10 Alan Jackson songs and, in my opinion, they left out two of his best — “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).” How could you?

Hank Jr.’s Travels
On his way back to his home in Paris — Paris, Tenn., that is — Hank Williams Jr. stopped off at his other home in Montana, where the deer and the elk and the antelope play. He had been on the West Coast to take care of some football biz.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Apple Cake.