HOT DISH: Alan Jackson Makes Strong First Impression at His New Label Home

More News About Thompson Square, Alison Krauss, 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

It was a typical Friday for the office workers when Alan Jackson showed up unannounced at Capitol/EMI Records, his new label home. Starting at the reception desk, Alan visited every office, meeting and shaking hands with the entire staff.

On top of that, he had lunch sent over from Jim ’n Nick’s barbecue restaurant with all the trimmings, including chocolate cake and banana and chocolate pies. And that ain’t all, folks. He also had a huge cooler of assorted beer — iced, of course!

What a guy! After 20 years in the music, Alan still knows how to get down and party. It may be Alan’s new label home, but don’t you know the entire bunch — from CEO Mike Dungan to the folks who sweep and cleans the restrooms — is in love with the great singer-songwriter.

As far as I’m concerned, Alan Jackson should be next in line to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It has to be Alan and Garth Brooks.

As a side note, good-hearted Alan will headline a benefit concert at a middle school in Rogersville, Tenn., on April 14 to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Have You Heard Thompson Square?
Have you heard the giant smash hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” ? Thompson Square performed the song on Conan last week. Over the weekend, the husband-wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson also performed during the Academy of Country Music’s free concerts at the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. With the single hitting No. 1 on Billboard’s country songs chart, it has been certified gold for sales of 500,000 copies.

Thompson Square and CMT have partnered for the Thompson Square Crash My Wedding dream honeymoon contest . The essay competition runs through April 27 and offers a chance to have the duo perform a song at your wedding reception before you head off for a honeymoon trip to Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans or New York City.

Thompson Square will be opening shows for Jason Aldean this summer.

Alison Krauss Unveils New Website
The all-new is here! She has launched a brand new website, and by being a member of the free community, you can take advantage of pre-sale opportunities for tickets to her upcoming concerts — and you know all of us want to do that.

At the website, you can also can download the title track of Alison Krauss & Union Station’s upcoming album, Paper Airplane, that will be in stores April 12.

Josh Thompson Gets “Way Out” on Fox & Friends
Here’s hoping you saw Josh Thompson performing live on Fox & Friends last week. If not, let me tell you. I saw him, and he was just fabulous. Josh performed the title track of his title of his album, Way Out Here. The song is so well-written. He sings about things “way out here,” like John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere.

Josh is opening concerts for Dierks Bentley during his current tour. When he’s off the road, Josh is in the studio preparing his next album. We’re talking about a man who laid concrete at 12 years old. Josh knows how to work.

Lots of News
Taylor Swift says when she sits down to write a song, the only person she’s thinking of is the person the song is about. What I want to know is who she’s referring to in “Mean.” Somebody ought to punch out the person who was mean to Taylor.

By the way, Taylor’s own fragrance line is to be marketed soon by Elizabeth Arden.

A song topic played out in real life for Eric Church. You may recall his 2006 single, “Two Pink Lines,” about the anxiety surrounding a pregnancy test. Well, Eric and his wife of three years are beyond thrilled to announce they’re expecting their first child this fall.

Among those honored at the T.J. Martell Foundation honors gala last week were the three guys who make up Rascal Flatts, along with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams and Dr. William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University school of medicine. The foundation is a leader in leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.

More than 100 top-tier songwriters affiliated with BMI in Nashville will attend the Better Angels Music Key West Songwriters Festival taking place April 27-May 1 in Key West, Fla. It gives me chills: Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Jerrod Niemann, Dallas Davidson, Lee Brice — men who write songs I can hum.

Foster & Lloyd Return
Foster & Lloyd were a duo almost two decades ago. Signed to RCA, Texan Radney Foster and Kentuckian Bill Lloyd sometimes showed a bit of a rockabilly influence in their brand of country music, but they also loved the Beatles.

They looked like high schoolers when they released their first album in the late ’80s. They scored some hits, including “Crazy Over You” and “Fair Shake,” but the misses sent the twosome solo in the early ’90s.

Foster penned songs for others and scored a deal with Arista Nashville where he hit with “Just Call Me Lonesome” and “Nobody Wins,” both stone-country smashes. He’s continued to find success as a solo artist.

Lloyd continued songwriting and applied his skills as a guitar player to find another career as a studio musician. He was also a member of the Sky Kings, a band that featured John Cowan and Rusty Young.

Proving that wonders never cease, I see where Foster & Lloyd are set to release their first album in 20 years. The digital release of It’s Already Tomorrow becomes available on April 26 while the CD will arrive in stores May 17.

They say they are going to tour. We will see!

Remember Harley Allen
At his request, Harley Allen, one of country music’s truly great songwriters, was released from the hospital on Tuesday (March 29). He died early the following morning at his Nashville home after a battle with cancer. The son of bluegrass great Red Allen, he was 55.

As teenagers, Harley and his brothers played bluegrass festivals with their dad. It was at one such event when Harley’s 19-year-old brother, Neal, died of pneumonia while the music played. Long before the tragedy, the acoustic music world was already in love with Red and the boys, especially Neal. When Harley came to Nashville, my own sons pulled for him like they did each for other. It’s no wonder, I cried all day after getting the news that Harley had died.

As a songwriter, Harley wrote “Between the Devil and Me” for Alan Jackson, “The Little Girl” for John Michael Montgomery, “The Baby” for Blake Shelton, “My Last Name” for Dierks Bentley, “Tough Little Boys” for Gary Allan, “Awful Beautiful Life” for Darryl Worley and both “If Nobody Believed in Me” and “I’ll Wait for You” for Joe Nichols, along with many other album cuts.

Harley is survived by his wife, Debbie Nims, daughters Katie and Maggie and son Aaron.

Mourning the Loss of Opry Star Mel McDaniel
All of us were saddened when we got the news that Grand Ole Opry member Mel McDaniel died Thursday (March 31) at his Nashville-area home after fighting cancer and other ailments. He’ll be remembered through hits like “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” “Louisiana Saturday Night” and “Stand Up.”

Mel continued to perform, but he was not the same after a spotlight blinded him and he fell from a stage in Louisiana in 1996. He went through several surgeries because of his severely-injured back. For years after that, all-American Mel would fight the pain as he’d ease up to the microphone on his crutches and perform “Stand Up.” With the audience already pumped up by his performance, he’d add the line, “Stand up for America,” and the crowd would go ballistic in showing their patriotic pride.

He’ll be missed by his friends at the Opry and country music fans everywhere.

Weddings Abound
Country Music Hall of Famer Barbara Mandrell, Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member Jeff Hanna and his lovely hit songwriting wife, Matraca Berg, were among the guests at the recent wedding of Autumn House and TV personality Shane Tallant. Autumn is vice president of A&R at Capitol Nashville and the daughter of award-winning radio host and songwriter Gerry House.

Nashville native Reese Witherspoon married talent agent Jim Toth on March 26 at her farm in Ojai, Calif. Reese’s two children by her former husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, took part in the ceremony. “Tennessee Waltz,” one of Tennessee’s state songs, was the processional music played as her children and the groom approached the altar. Witherspoon won an Academy Award for her role as June Carter Cash in the movie Walk the Line.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1661165″]Monkey Bread.[/news]