HOT DISH: Alan Jackson Is a True Artist

More Country Music News About George Strait, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride and Others

(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.)

Whenever Alan Jackson releases a single, an album, or in this case, an emotional video of a hit single such as “Sissy’s Song,” he does a first-class job. It’s never sloppy and always has a deep, heartfelt meaning. Like all the rest of his work, his commitment is obvious to the fans, or in this case, it’s fan and critic (me) who are left with a heavy heart and teary eyes.

“Sissy’s Song” is the story of a young woman in her 40s who for years worked in the Jackson’s home every day. Leslie “Sissy” Fitzgerald died in a motorcycle accident in May 2007, leaving her husband, a college-aged daughter and high school-aged son.

Alan’s country heart hurt deeply following the accident. He couldn’t sleep. After he sat down and wrote “Sissy’s Song,” he somehow felt better. He recorded the song and gave it to the Fitzgerald family for the funeral. The song helped heal the hurt felt by the Fitzgeralds, as well as the Jacksons.

The video was shot at the Bear Creek Church in Culleoka, Tenn., south of Nashville. The church was a place of worship for the Confederates during the Civil War. It’s rumored that hauntings have swirled around the grounds and that ghost hunters have captured spectral photos of spirits in the churchyard. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have no intention of traveling in the direction of where hauntings have allegedly swirled and ghost hunters have taken photos. I’ll just take their word for it.

The bottom line is that it’s a great video and that the lyrical content of this song and others such as “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” place Alan in a special category reserved for country music’s true artists.

Stars Still Coming Out for ACM’s Artist of the Decade
The stars keep signing up to help honor the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade, George Strait, during an April 6 television taping in Las Vegas. Among the latest additions to the list are Brooks & Dunn, Jamie Foxx, Jack Ingram, Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, John Rich, LeAnn Rimes, Blake Shelton and Lee Ann Womack. They join an impressive lineup previously announced for the tribute — Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.

There’s no bigger star than George Strait. The Cowboy was the first to play stadiums. As I look at the list above, I see a couple of major acts who opened shows for George through the years. It’s my hope that all his opening acts will be on hand to honor him. I’ll tell you what, I’d sing him a song any day of the week!

Remembering Dan Seals
Longtime friend Tony Gottlieb called Wednesday night (March 25) to let me know Dan Seals had lost his two-year battle with mantle cell lymphoma. Surrounded by his entire family, he died at his daughter’s home in Nashville at 8:30 p.m., his show time. Dan was flown here March 20 from the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md., where he’d received a stem cell transplant.

More News
When President Barack Obama appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the musical guest was his friend, the great Garth Brooks. Garth’s guitar player said he only got a glimpse of the president, but he noticed a whole bevy of bomb-sniffing dogs walking about.

Taylor Swift just may have the biggest tour of 2009. So far, every venue has been a quick sellout. Madison Square Garden in New York City sold out in a minute.

The McBride family — Martina, husband John and their three daughters — recently spent a week vacationing in the Bahamas. Last week, she was in New York for a series of media appearances and interviews. This week, she’ll be doing more of the same in Los Angeles. Martina is putting on the Shine on her new album of the same title. She plans to tour in November.

Native Texans Michael Martin Murphey, Linda Davis and Neal McCoy are the latest inductees into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition to her career accomplishments, Davis, of course, is the mother of Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.

Speaking of Neal McCoy, he jumped at the chance to join retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks in Hobart, Okla., for the May 23 grand opening of the museum named for the general. “Gen. Franks is a class act, and anytime he wants me to be involved with him, I’m going to do what it takes to make it happen,” Neal said.

Waylon Gave Good Advice to Lost Trailers
Ryder Lee, Stokes Nielson, Manny Medina, Andrew Nielson and Jeff Potter make up the band known as the Lost Trailers. The group hasn’t slowed down one iota since the release of their album, Holler Back, which garnered a Top 5 spot on the Billboard country albums chart.

Stokes recalls a time when Waylon Jennings gave him some much-appreciated advice, telling him not to be afraid about writing songs about real pain and things that he’s gone through or that affected him. Waylon told him people related to music and stories that are real. Stokes says, “I just feel lucky to have been the songwriter standing in front of him when he said it.”

The Lost Trailers’ latest single is “How ‘Bout You Don’t.” Be sure to watch for those pretty boys on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks on Saturday (April 4). The movie is The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Old-Time Rice Pudding.