(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.)
My very favorite two photos of 2007 are of a teary William Huckleberry Paisley seated on Santa's lap and a pouting Mattie Lyn Smith seated near Santa. Parents -- Brad and Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Billy and Marilyn Smith. Grandparents -- Doug and Sandy Paisley and Hazel Smith -- as if you didn't know!
Another pretty Christmas card photo is of Joe Don Rooney and Tiffany Fallon, one of the prettiest couples in show biz or any biz. Won't they have a beautiful baby!
Since you are reading this during the holidays, let me wish all of you a Happy New Year. All I ask of you for 2008 -- promise to keep your children fed and your music country. In view of the fact we have two female stars who are stretching toward filled venues, let's give a final 2007 hand to Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift simply because they are looking good and looking upward. Carrie's publishing company, Carrie-Okie (how cute and clever is that!), has a No. 1 co-written song, "So Small." Taylor, who just turned 18, has an entire album of songs she's written and will open shows for the very hot Kenny Chesney come 2008.
Sometimes I wonder if anything I write has any value. Hopefully its entertainment worth will keep fans aware of the singers and their songs. I know who is hitting, and I know who is the governor of my state and the mayor of my city. But I don't give a cat's hind end who the representatives are and am not paying a whole lot of attention to the presidential race. My agenda is show biz. Country music. So I am mightily pleased that North Carolina's Jason Michael Carroll is Billboard's top new country artist of 2007 and R&R's top new country male. Congratulations to Jason, the dude who wrote "Alyssa Lies" and "Livin' Our Love Song." Jason will open the Sound & Speed concert for Big Alan Jackson on Jan. 12 in Music Town, and he joins Big Trace Adkins on tour in February.
I'm also proud when my people step out and do some acting if they take care of their music like Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw. Both these hunks have accepted roles in Four Christmases, a comedy set to be released next year this time and starring Oscar winners -- who've won for portraying country singers -- Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Reese Witherspoon.
My favorite holiday album this season, The Star Still Shines: A Diamond Rio Christmas, is on Word. Thought you'd want to know.
I may not be the worst singer in the world, but I come close to being the worst singer in Twang Town. Bad singing never stops me from calling friends and singing "Happy Birthday" like I did on the 19th to Sharon White of the Whites. As usual, Sharon obliged with laughter. Voices and music came on the phone so I asked, "Where are you?" "Going up the back steps at the Ryman," she replied. "We are singing for the American Red Cross," she added. Smog brain kicked in and I remembered the Whites, Ricky Skaggs, Amy Grant, Collin Raye and others were doing an appreciation concert for these wonderful, caring people. It was then I realized Sharon was going up the back steps of the Ryman, the same steps where legends like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Bill Monroe walked -- while I sang "Happy Birthday." That's almost unholy.
Joe Nichols was on Music Row and looking fine. He delivered homemade cookies to a pal. He has a new manager. We are pulling for you, Joe.
Chuck Wicks has something to brag about. His first single, "Stealing Cinderella," is Top 15 and rising, and his debut album hits the stores Jan. 22. The RCA newcomer opens shows for hot Brad Paisley's continuing Bonfires & Amplifiers tour that'll kick off Jan. 16 in Denver. Wicks is a native of Delaware. Is he our first star from Delaware?
I'm hearing nothing but raves about the Kenny Chesney/Buddy Cannon-produced Willie Nelson CD, Moment of Forever. Proving he still can, Willie has 13 dates on the books in January 2008.
Congratulations to my friend the great Earl Scruggs, who will be honored at the Grammys in February with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award, along with fellow recipients from other genres.
Wasn't Santa the best -- delivering Gracelynn to Doug and Linda Edell Howard? Well, I have to say that's God's work. Even Santa could not have made that miracle. Thanks for the beautiful pics. She's a doll.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fried Corn.