HOT DISH: It’s Been a Great Year for Country Music

News About Kellie Pickler, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift 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.)

Here we are once again … staring square in the face of yet another year ending. Fly, time, fly. What about 2009? Hasn’t it been a great year for music? I would bet anything that Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum fans are screaming, “Yes!” Young people are taking their place in country music like they’ve never done before.

Speaking of young people, what about 23-year-old Chris Janson, the newest act over at Sony? The Perryville, Mo., native has got it in spades — the it that everybody wants but nobody understands how to get. I haven’t met Chris, but I expect a luncheon real soon. He can escort me to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge if he wants to. After all, that’s where he’s been singing for the past year. This is the first printed item on Janson that I know of, but it won’t be the last. The dude is a star. Now you’ve got the skinny.

Kellie and Miranda Make the News
I understand that the wonderful Kellie Pickler has a new record producer, Frank Liddell. He also produces Miranda Lambert, and I love her music. And he’s married to Lee Ann Womack. I’ll be frank with you, Frank. You’ve got yourself surrounded by females, especially if you count the two daughters at home!

I hear Miranda doesn’t want cutie boyfriend Blake Shelton to gift her with a ring for Christmas. What she wants is a good set of pots and pans. It seems all she has came from the dollar store. Same here, Miranda. I’m wanting a nice set of pots and pans to cook for the stars who appear on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks.

Kellie, the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, the Country Music Association and the Nashville Symphony have issued invitations to a holiday concert introducing the Keep the Music Playing All-Stars. What a treat — enjoying musical talents of students from public schools at the lovely Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. I hear the dandy Kellie may be presenting a check during Tuesday’s (Dec. 8) event. I’m also told the brave girl will be going back to Iraq on a tour with Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser to entertain our troops. Lastly, I hear Zac Brown is writing a song that could turn into a duet with Kellie.

Tim McGraw’s Acting Career Is Thriving
The Blind Side, the movie starring Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock, has generated $110 million in box office revenue in just 10 days. And as Hollywood entertainment executives scratch their heads in wonder, I can tell them why the movie is so successful. It’s because fans want real-life truth. And they get real-life truth in the movie. They also get real-life truth in country music. It didn’t hurt one iota that the movie’s story took place in the South. My friend, Kevin, saw The Blind Side on Thanksgiving night in Indianapolis and reports to me that the movie is great. It’s “something else,” said Kevin.

Speaking of movies and Tim, we may as well make you aware that Tim is set to star opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester and reunite with Friday Night Lights‘ Garrett Hedlund in the country music drama, Love Don’t Let Me Down. Filming begins in January in Nashville.

Keith Urban Racks Up Some Frequent Flyer Miles
On Nov. 11, he walked on the red carpet at the CMA Awards escorting one of the prettiest women in the world — his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. Keith Urban performed on the show, and the beautiful woman blew him a kiss. Immediately following the CMAs, Keith headed to Los Angeles for the American Music Awards to perform on the show and pick up his trophy for favorite male country artist. Shortly thereafter, he flew to Sydney, Australia, to perform “Kiss a Girl” as the opening of the Aria Awards — Australia’s equivalent of the Grammys. He then returned to L.A. and soon caught another flight to Nashville for the sole purpose of attending a No. 1 party honoring Steve McEwan and John Reid, who wrote his recent No. 1 single, “Only You Can Love Me This Way.” And as soon as the party was over, he flew back to the West Coast. Songwriters around the world have to be impressed that Keith would fly to Nashville to stay just two hours for such an occasion. He’s a songwriter who wants to honor other songwriters.

Trailer Choir Create “Holla” Day Fun
I had too much fun when Trailer Choir taped Southern Fried Flicks in my kitchen. I just love that good-time trio that records for Show Dog, Toby Keith‘s label. Their single, “Rockin’ the Beer Gut,” has sold more than 200,000 copies. It’s that time of the season, so they’ve retooled the lyrics for a track titled “Rockin’ the Beer Gut (Holla Day Version)” that details Santa’s struggles with his weight. There’s a “go, Santa” refrain that Butter, Big Vinny and Crystal bite into. It’s a part of their show.

Even More News
Earlier this year and last year, Taylor Swift opened concerts for Brad Paisley. Each wrapped 2009 with their individual tours while selling out concerts and raking in more than $500,000 per show. Looks like they’re gonna need some bigger rakes for 2010.

Remember Bryan White? He’s back on the scene with a new album titled Dustbowl Dreams. Bryan and his wife, actress Erika Page, have two sons.

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, will host a three-day music fest on July 23-25. Champions like Kenny Chesney, the Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean, Dwight Yoakam, Michael McDonald, Loretta Lynn, Sam Bush and many more are set to sing where the horses run.

On Friday (Dec. 11), Toby Keith and a bevy of non-country entertainers will perform in Oslo, Norway, at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring President Barack Obama.

ASCAP and BMI recently hosted No. 1 parties celebrating the success of Chris Young‘s “Getting’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” It’s Young’s first No. 1 as a singer and songwriter. He co-wrote the hit with Kent Blazy and Cory Batten.

Newcomer Josh Thompson has unveiled a brand new and different Web site in anticipation of his forthcoming album, Way Out Here. Fans can stream and purchase four tracks from his self-titled digital EP. Josh’s debut single, “Beer on the Table,” has also inspired the first-ever Whack-a-Beer game that’s also featured on his Web site.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Easy Beef Stroganoff.