HOT DISH: Little Big Town — Bighearted and Thoughtful

More News About Randy Houser, Blake Shelton, Montgomery Gentry 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

Little Big Town’s hubby and wife, Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild, are first-time parents following arrival of son Elijah Dylan Westbrook, who was born Friday (March 5) in Nashville He weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces.

In lieu of gifts, the band is celebrating Elijah’s arrival by hosting an online shower to benefit babies recovering from the Haitian earthquake. I do believe this is the definition of love.

Five Great Men Get ACM Producer of the Year Nominations
I’m not acquainted with Taylor Swift’s record producer, Nathan Chapman, but I know other producers, including Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney), Dann Huff (Keith Urban) Frank Rogers (Brad Paisley) and Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert’s producer who is married to Lee Ann Womack). A finer slate of men you will never meet, and they’re all nominated for the Academy of Country Music’s producer of the year. It’s a shame they’re only giving out one trophy.

Randy Houser Video Gets ACM Nomination
I just flat fell for Randy Houser’s way of songwriting. The boy doesn’t waste a word. From Mississippi, he’s been playing bars since his teens. And now, the ACM has nominated Randy for video of the year for his wonderful hit, “Boots On.” Four-year-old Drake Dixon was videotaped in the backseat of a car while lip-syncing “Boots On,” the second single from Randy’s debut album, Anything Goes. Drake’s performance was sent to the record label, which in turn hired a producer to write a video script around the kid’s performance. The resulting video went on to garner a video of the year nomination from the CMA.

Yes, the wonderful Randy has appeared on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks with yours truly, and I am so proud to tell you that Randy, the lovely Kellie Pickler and the amazing Jamey Johnson recently went on a USO tour to perform for troops throughout the Persian Gulf region. Sometimes the biggest stars have the biggest hearts. We are so blessed.

Blake’s Big Day
Blake Shelton was honored when he garnered an ACM nomination in the vocal event category for the fastest-rising single of his career, “Hillbilly Bone,” his duet with Trace Adkins. “This is the best day of my life,” Blake said Tuesday (March 2) after he helped announce the nominations in New York City. “I got to read the nominations with the queen of country music — Reba — and then I find out ’Hillbilly Bone,’ my single with Trace, one of my great friends, is nominated. Plus, my album, also named Hillbilly Bone is released today.”

Montgomery Gentry Tapped for Humanitarian Award
Montgomery Gentry will be presented the 2010 ACM/The Home Depot Humanitarian Award during the 45th annual ACM Awards in Las Vegas on April 18. They’ve helped a lot of people, especially children.

Bucky’s Back With a New Single
The ever-wonderful Bucky Covington has released his new single, “A Father’s Love (The Only Way He Knew How),” and you fans can hear the song on According to Bucky, the album was finished when this song crossed his desk and touched his heart big time. “Sounds like my daddy,” thought the North Carolina native who was raised in his daddy’s auto body shop near the Rockingham Speedway. By the way, Bucky’s self-titled debut album generated a string of hits. This new single will be on his upcoming album, I’m Alright.

Singing for the Mountaintops
Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Patty Griffin, Buddy and Julie Miller, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and others will perform May 19 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium during a “Music Saves Mountains” concert to end mountaintop removal in Appalachia. For the life of me, I do not know how anybody could touch the top of those beautiful God-made mountains where so many of our wonderful songs originated. Leave the coal in the mines. Do not take the tops of those hills just to get a bit of coal. It’s sort of like stealing from … well, maybe the Creator.

Some Thoughts About the Current State of Country
With 45 pictures and a lengthy list of names in CMA Close Up magazine, we are introduced to a bevy of newcomers. Of the 45, I recognized the very talented singer-songwriter Josh Thompson and the equally-talented Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones who make up the Steel Magnolia duo. Forty-five pictures of potential acts — and I do not know 43! What are we going to do with all these people? Do we have 43 retirees wearing shoes to fit these folks who are waiting in line to sing the next hit?

And what about all the changes? Radio people — including familiar names we’ve known for years — are looking for jobs. Some of them are being replaced by slick-talking, slick-looking dudes who have yet to find their way to the restroom at a country radio station. Upper level record label executives in Nashville are retiring while others are coming and going.

I’m concerned about Toby Keith. He had a nice boutique label, Show Dog Nashville, with little or no headaches. Now he’s got a small army of artists. How can Toby write and sing his songs, look after his I Love This Bar restaurant chain, see after his clothing line, keep those Ford trucks front and center, go flying off to the Middle East to entertain the troops and spend 200 days on the road doing concerts — and still find time to play golf? I am truly concerned Toby is going to overextend himself and end up flat on his back sick.

The labels keep dropping artists while adding new ones. It makes no sense to me. Why get new ones when you’ve got artists you liked when you signed them last year? Stop and think. Who hadn’t recorded a new album in four or five years and then released a single that topped the chart? Reba McEntire, that’s who. When she began her recording career, she released seven singles before hitting the Top 10 with “You Lift Me Up.” Today’s new artists aren’t given that sort of time to launch their careers. What if someone said no to Reba. What a mistake that would have been.

Kenny and Steve Play the Small Stage
Kenny Chesney and Steve Miller took to the stage in Nashville to tape a performance for CMT Crossroads. After playing to the SRO crowd at the Ryman Auditorium, the pair sneaked out the Ryman’s back door, cut across the alley, ducked into the back door of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and headed to the postage stamp-sized stage in the window of the famed barroom on Lower Broadway. Like Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Faron Young and Hank Cochran, Kenny and Steve had a cold one and then occupied the stage with music until day was pretty near breaking.

Jim Halsey’s Starmaker
This month, veteran booking agent Jim Halsey will release Starmaker, a book that tells all his secrets when it comes to making stars. The man must know what he’s doing. He worked with the Oak Ridge Boys (and still manages them), Roy Clark, Hank Thompson, Reba McEntire, Wanda Jackson, Tammy Wynette, Roy Orbison, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, the Judds, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Lee Greenwood and a passel of others.

Mattie and the Governor
Our 4-year-old Mattie Lyn Smith attends Bellshire Academy near Nashville. She loves school. Last week, she wore her tan slacks and white shirt like the rest of the children because they had a special guest coming to read to them — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. The governor read The Little Engine That Could, which happens to be the first book sent to children from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Dolly mails books monthly to children from birth to kindergarten, a practice she started back home in Sevier County in East Tennessee. Thanks to Gov. Bredesen, it’s now a statewide program, and thanks to Dolly, it now extends to other nations. Since it was the birthday of Dr. Suess, the governor also read The Cat in the Hat.

Without our knowledge, two of the local TV stations showed up at the event to tape the governor and children for their newscasts. Guess who was all smiles and seated as close to the governor as possible? Mattie, naturally. It’s showbiz, folks. Runs in the family.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Mac ’n’ Meat ’n’ Cheese.