HOT DISH: Recapping the 2009 CMA Awards

Country's Biggest Night Becomes the Taylor Swift Show

(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.)

It could have been called the Taylor Swift Show because that’s what it turned out to be. She kicked off Wednesday’s (Nov. 11) CMA Awards show with “Forever and Always” and later performed her current single, “Fifteen,” and clasped her entertainer of the year trophy, closing the show while bawling her head off and hugging her band. She also took home the coveted female vocalist award and album of the year honors (for Fearless). Off-camera, she was awarded the music video of the year award for “Love Story.”

Rascal Flatts‘ long run as the CMA vocal group of the year ended when 2008′s new artist of the year, Lady Antebellum, moved forward with their first win in the category. Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of Lady A were also presented the single of the year award for “I Run to You” It’s a new era, huh, Hillary?

Three outstanding and well-earned awards were as follows: Brad Paisley‘s win for male vocalist, Brad and Keith Urban‘s off-camera win in the musical event category for “Start a Band” and song of the year recognition for Jamey Johnson‘s big hit, “In Color,” written by Jamey, James Otto and Lee Thomas Miller. Miller gave an incredible acceptance speech. Several acts recognized Veteran’s Day from the stage. Overall, most of the acts kept their comments short and sweet and, most of all, respectable, which meant the show actually finished on time.

No act was more thrilled than Darius Rucker, who was named new artist of the year. Sugarland won the duo of the year prize, and guitarist Mac McAnally was named musician of the year.

But it just didn’t seem right for Kenny Chesney not to win. Didn’t you think Kenny sang better solo than he did in his duet with Dave Matthews?

I was so happy that dear Vince Gill was on the show with the rock band Daughtry, but I’d prefer he sing solo or with a real country act.

“Between Jennings and Jones,” Jamey’s duet with Kid Rock, did not get the applause I expected. It’s such a great song.

Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler should not have gone home empty-handed. They were great. I even like Kellie’s hair color changing from blond to brunette, although it is a little shocking at first.

Faith Hill is still as pretty as they come, and so are Martina McBride and Nicole Kidman. CMT’s Katie Cook was stunning on the red carpet, and CMT cohort Lance Smith was wonderful as a host — as always.

The Zac Brown Band woke us up with their version of Charlie Daniels‘ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It sure was great, too, to hear Tim McGraw sing his latest single, “Southern Voice.”

I don’t care what anybody says, I refuse to ever stop missing Brooks & Dunn, who will be retiring as a duo next year. Shoot, I already miss them — and they’re not even gone.

I am so proud the CMA had the good taste to recognize the three great 2009 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame — Roy Clark, Charlie McCoy and Barbara Mandrell. Absent from the awards show, Roy is not well. Backing Martina McBride on her version of Barbara’s big hit, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” Charlie proved he can still blow a harmonica. And Barbara must be the first Hall of Fame inductee fit enough to wear a strapless gown. You go, girl!

Brad and Carrie, if I had an awards show, I’d hire you guys to host. I’ve been watching these shows since the ’70s, and nobody did better than you. During rehearsals, somebody said Brad’s attire of a ball cap, jeans and plaid shirt made it look like he was ready to haul hay. Carrie, you did change dresses 14 times? Brad, I’m gonna be making green beans real soon, at your place or mine.

People’s Choice Nominees Announced
We can’t get past one awards show until another comes along. The People’s Choice Awards, hosted by Queen Latifah, airs Jan. 6 on CBS. Keith Urban and Tim McGraw are in the running for male artist category that includes all styles of music. Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are in the female artist category with Beyonc√©, Britney Spears and Pink. The favorite country artist nominees are Keith, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift. Taylor is also nominated in the pop artist category.

Trailer Choir
They are a trio. They are Trailer Choir, and they’ve got themselves a hit single titled “Rockin’ the Beer Gut.” Wait until you hear how two became three and how 12th and Porter in Nashville is more than just a bar.

Like always, Trailer Choir had packed the place for one of their shows at the popular club located in downtown Nashville. At that time, there were two guys in the group — Butter (an Ashtabula, Ohio, native who moves real smooth) and Big Vinny (the overall-wearing redneck from Linden, Tenn.). On that night at the club, a pretty girl from Cheneyville, La., was in the audience and jumped onstage.

“You need a girl in this band,” she said.

The boys agreed, and Crystal Hoyt stayed.

At a later show, local radio man Billy Block walked up to the stage and told the threesome, “Toby Keith is back at the back of the club. He wants to meet you all.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet Toby’s here,” Butter laughed.

“He really is here and wants to meet you,” Billy insisted.

They left the stage and followed Billy to the back of 12th and Porter, where they saw a really tall, big guy who looked a whole lot like the Toby Keith they’d seen in pictures.

“Who wrote those songs ya’ll are singing up there?” asked Toby.

“We did,” Butter replied.

“Ya’ll want to go on the road and sing those songs you been writing?” Toby asked.

“Yeah,” they said in unison.

Well, that was a Tuesday night, and they left Nashville two days later to open shows for Toby Keith in California and all across this great land. That was many songs ago.

There is no jealousy or backbiting in this group. When they came to my house to tape Southern Fried Flicks, it felt so good to see three people who share the road and the stage together and still like and respect each other. I think it has to do with the fact that they love music so much and have found a niche for themselves. It doesn’t matter that Butter waded in Lake Erie, Crystal waded in the delta waters of the Bayou State and Big Vinny waded in Tennessee creeks. They all dug my prime rib, baby green lima beans, potato salad, beet pickles and Almond Joy cake. And they love to sing.

And as the list of blond beauties becomes history, Trailer Choir joins the ever-growing list of country music groups taking up space on the charts. After the trio left my house, they made the rounds at the radio remotes taking place during CMA Awards week to debut the holiday version of their single, “Rockin’ the Beer Gut.” Lord, they sang that in my kitchen!

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Prime Rib.