HOT DISH: How Will the Nation’s Economy Affect Country Music’s Newcomers

More News About Dolly Parton, John Rich and This Year's Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

(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

Here we go speeding through the new year like time is ending and we have the keys to open all the locks down below and up above. An entire month breezed by. Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are the reigning blonds. Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Toby Keith aim to put more butts in seats during 2009 than they did last year. Divers in Florida think they’ve found the pots filled with gold, but I think we have the gold (and platinum) covered by Carrie, Taylor, Kenny, Brad, Keith and Toby. These acts are on the charts and in the hearts of people who love country music. And I’m here to tell you, friends, that’s gold.

The economy sucks big-time. Performers are deeply concerned about the cost of travel. Can they afford to travel a thousand miles to perform one show? We have new blood in the White House that the Republicans hate as much as the Democrats hated the man who left for Texas. Isn’t it a shame?

We have so many new acts — duos, groups and females and males with or without hats. How can the powers-that-be at four major labels guide the careers of all these singers? It truly concerns me when layoffs happen such as the ones that have been hitting Music Row. The same hardworking execs have got to keep up the workload for their plethora of performers with half the staff they’re accustomed to. The overworked staff will suffer, and the performers fall behind from lack of needed attention. Lord forbid if somebody gets seriously ill. Where does it go from here? It seems to me that record labels have already cut back their spending, but how can they break new acts without the bucks it takes to push them to the forefront? Here we go — allowing talent to fall though the cracks. And it’s a shame. The big money heyday is history.

Off the top of my head, among the deserving new artists are the Eli Young Band, Julianne Hough, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, James Otto, Emerson Drive, Kate & Kacey Coppola, Chuck Wicks and Emily West. The buzz has started on these acts. I wish I could say they will all become the superstars they deserve to be, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. The economy can promote or prevent stardom.

I happen to like the new president. He’s in my prayers. I hope he can find time to smile at the leader of every nation on the planet so our beloved U.S.A. can once again stand tall as the respected world leader. Country music can help take us back there. Let country sing and freedom ring.

Three Great Choices for Hall of Fame Induction
This year’s Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are Charlie McCoy, Roy Clark and Barbara Mandrell. I will write about these three deserving people over and over so you will remember them. Lord knows, they probably won’t be allowed to grace the stage during the CMA Awards show. Through years of session work and solo albums, Charlie remains Mr. Harmonica. Roy was an entertainer’s entertainer, hosting Hee Haw and touring the world. And Barbara hosted her marvelous television show on NBC until she wore herself out.

Double-Duty Dolly
Dolly Parton was honored at the Gospel Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week at the Richland Country Club in Nashville. The country music legend was welcomed as a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Other new inductees included singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith, Dr. Bobby Jones and studio session arranger Lari Goss.

Following the ceremony, Dolly joined Ronnie Dunn, Kellie Pickler and others at the Wildhorse Saloon for the Gift of Music Concert. Money raised from the night’s ticket sales benefited the W.O. Smith Nashville Community School to help purchase musical equipment for underprivileged children. Thanks Dolly, Ronnie, Kellie and all the others for helping this worthwhile cause.

John Rich Delivers Detroit Anthem
John Rich wrote an anthem called “Raising McCain” in an effort to help John McCain’s presidential election campaign. It didn’t turn the tide, but John has now penned “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” a new anthem for the Detroit automakers. I have not heard John perform the song, but the lyrics of the chorus are brilliant and go like this: “In the real world, they’re shuttin’ Detroit down while the boss-man takes his bonus and jets out of town.”

It’s almost a crime the millions of dollars the automaker CEOs make. I say fire all of them. And while we’re at it, fire the deep-pocket bankers, Hollywood moviemakers, gamblers, ramblers and thieves. Give every employer at every company a test. If they fail it, fire the big money-takers and hire the smartest blue-collar guys to run the company and pay them a dollar less each year than our president makes. All big business should repeat this procedure. Fire each and every executive who makes more than a million bucks a year and get this U.S.A. train back on track while we sing a country song.

Thanks for the song, John. You got me all fired up.

Country Valentine’s Day
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are a few observations I’ve made:

What a cute couple Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough are.

Ditto for Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.

Married couples like Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman are precious.

So are Brad and Kim Paisley, so in love and married.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill still look like a matched set.

Reba McEntire and her hunky husband, Narvel Blackstock, are a good-looking pair, too.

George and Norma Strait have been an item for decades.

Aaron and Thea Tippin belong together.

Dierks and Cassie Bentley are just darling.

Nancy and George Jones — forever a perfect match.

Jewel and Ty Murray must love riding the Texas hills to watch the evening sun go down.

Did You Ever Wonder?
When Brooks & Dunn pose for a photo, why does Kix Brooks always seem to put the thumb of his left hand in his jeans pocket?

And when Keith Anderson poses, why does he put both hands in his pockets?

What’s in Jimmy Wayne’s iPod? (As it turns out, it’s Brad Paisley and Gary Allan. I dig them, too.)

More News
The proudest Texan of the week has to be Pat Green, whose new album, What I’m For, debuted at No. 2 on the country albums chart.

Kenny Chesney paid $5.7 million in hopes of having a hideaway home in Key West, Fla., but it turned out not to be a hideaway at all. One of the local Web sites even printed his street address. The “for sale” sign is again on the front lawn.

Jamey Johnson is set to open shows for Willie Nelson in March and mostly in Florida. Jamey cannot believe he’s opening shows for his hero. Willie will treat Jamey like a son. And Jamey will never get over what’s in store for him next month.

The Military Officers Association of America is presenting its 2009 Distinguished Service Award to Toby Keith for his exceptional support of those serving in the military. Toby is about to embark on his eighth USO tour and has performed more than 100 shows for the organization. 

Bucky Covington is set to embark on a weeklong USO tour to Europe. The North Carolina native will perform for soldiers in Kosovo, the Netherlands and Germany.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Potatoes Romanoff.