(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.)
Jack Ingram was at Hills Café in Austin, Texas, where he'd perform that night with his five-piece band when he called me. He'd just completed a year opening for Martina McBride's Waking Up Laughing tour. Jack says Martina is the hardest working female he's ever seen. "Even if she's sick, Martina will go out and pull off a great show," Jack said. I wondered if her work ethic was what impressed Jack most about Martina. "No!" he replied. "It's her relationship with her three daughters. She's a phenomenal parent. Her connection with her children is so well integrated."
"That's a Man" is Jack's current single, the fastest climbing of his career and the first single from his next yet untitled album due out in February or March 2009. "There's three verses in the single. The first verse is about a 19-year-old, second verse is about two marines who go off to war and only one returns and the third is a farmer living off the land where his family has lived for a century. Repeat the chorus after each verse with 'that's a man,'" he explained. But I knew that. "I've co-written with Jeffrey Steele, Craig Wiseman, Radney Foster and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum for this project. Jeremy Stover produced and I got a video coming up soon," he added.
Jack has 16 more dates in 2008 which will be spent singing in the honky-tonks in Texas and, like Waylon Jennings sang, they are Ingram's natural second home. Holidays are coming up, and he, Amy and the three kids will enjoy Disney World for three or four days before Thanksgiving, but they'll be home in time to cook and carve the big bird. A big YES, he will be home for Christmas with Ava who is 6, Eli 4 years old and Hudson a rambunctious 2-year-old. "I so look forward to that," laughed Jack.
Speaking of the kids, Jack has a new star system that's working big time with his crew. If a child does something positive, they get a star, but a star can be taken away. When they reach 20 stars that child gets a special gift. Ava reached 20 stars, her first, and got her first video game -- a girl's DS. Eli hasn't reached 20 stars, but Jack says he bolts to the table when it's mealtime and he's responding with "yes sir" and "no sir." I was embarrassed to tell Jack how many video games are here at my house!
Jack loves Big Machine Records."Hardest working folks around," he offered. Best buds? Guys like Pat Green and Todd Snider.
Hank Williams Lives Again
The real hero in resurrecting the acetate recordings for Hank Williams' The Unreleased Recordings is former National Life photographer Les Leverett who under that umbrella shot pictures for WSM-TV and the Grand Ole Opry for 32 years until retirement. "When WSM was moving from the National Life building to the Knob Hill location, they were cleaning out the storage area where all the acetates, 45s, etc. were stored. We were told if we wanted any of the items to help ourselves because they were going to trash them," allowed Leverett. Les and three or four co-workers went through piles of recordings during lunchtime. Meanwhile, Les came across an acetate in a trash can outside exec Bob Cooper's door that read, "Hank Williams, Mothers Finest" with a 1951 date -- the only one he retrieved from a trash can. The remaining tapes were in the storage room ready to be trashed. Les piled Hank's Mother's Finest tapes that he'd salvaged on his desk and kept the acetates until 1981 when Bob Pinson at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum urged him to allow them to try and clean them up and put the music on tape. Hall of Fame's Alan Stoker soaped and watered the discs and they played.
The Girls Are IT
Raised outside of Nashville, actress Reese Witherspoon is the first presenter announced for the upcoming CMA Awards on Nov. 12 on ABC-TV live from the Sommet Center. Witherspoon won an Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the award-winning biopic, Walk the Line. Look for our first IT girl in the upcoming flick, Four Christmases, set for a Nov. 26 release.
Matraca Berg is so IT, she's gone head and shoulders above the boys in this boy world we survive in. Congratulations, my friend, on your induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Out of 167 members, Matraca is only the ninth female inductee. Her biggest hits were "Strawberry Wine," "Wild Angels," "I'm That Kind of Girl," "The Last One to Know" and "Wrong Side of Memphis." Pretty dad-gum great for a girl, huh. Tom Shapiro was also an inductee as was John Hiatt.
Carrie Underwood will co-host the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley. Along with Underwood, so far the following IT girls are set to perform: Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Jennifer Nettles, and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.
She's a double IT plus because she is Carrie Underwood. The three-time Grammy winner recently unveiled her own wax figure at Madame Tussauds in New York.
Carrie's really triple IT! Her recent chart-topper, "Just a Dream," became her fourth No. 1 from her Carnival Ride CD. It was 11 years ago when another IT girl, Shania Twain, had her fourth No. 1, "No One Needs to Know," from The Woman in Me CD.
Had Jack Ingram not said a word about Martina McBride, the world knows this little gal is IT. One of the nicest people to ever walk on a stage.
All you have to do is listen to Lee Ann Womack's new album, Call Me Crazy, and right off the bat you will scream, "Tag, you're IT!" I've listened and listened and cannot find anything except pure and unadulterated pleasure on the record. In this day and time, it's a miracle to find music honest and good. It takes Lee Ann and producer Tony Brown to come up with these groovy grooves. I'm glad she is writing with Dale Dodson. That helps keep IT country.
Reba McEntire's three-disc boxed set that contains 50 Greatest Hits is in the stores and just in time for your holiday giving. Ms. Reba knows she's IT. Twenty No. 1 singles, countless awards, star on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun, and for seven years, she starred in Reba, the WB sitcom.
Ashton Shepherd is IT! Her single, "Sounds So Good," is a big No. 9. Keep climbing.
Congratulations to six-months-pregnant-with-a-son IT girl, Jo Dee Messina. This is the first child for Jo Dee and hubby Chris Deffenbaugh.
When DreamWorks shuttered, that left Jessica Andrews without a label. MCA/Mercury didn't pick her up. I thought Big Machine would but didn't. News spread last week that Jessica is the first artist signed to Disney's new label, Carolwood Records. Jessica's producer is Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus. Jessica is an IT!
For the third consecutive year, CMA Executive Officer Tammy Genovese has been named one of Billboard's top women in music. Why heck, yes, that gives Tammy IT rights.
Kristy Lee Cook became an IT with her recent Opry debut.
Talking about an IT girl. Nobody is more than Taylor Swift. With the release of Fearless coming up Nov. 11, I'd wager if you cut on your television during November, you will see Taylor. Like the 11th, she's on Good Morning America and Late Show With David Letterman and CMT Unplugged at 330 as well as Clear Channel's Stripped. She'll be cross-promoted on MTV's digital platforms including MTV.com, VH1.com, Rhapsody and CMT Mobile. Also CMT Crossroads with Taylor and Def Leppard, the CMA Awards, AMA Awards, and she covers Redbook and is on Grammy Nominations Concerts Live: Countdown to Music's Biggest Night.
At the top is IT girl is Connie Bradley. Why Connie? Hey, haven't you seen all the handsome, young male songwriters who flock to her ASCAP door! Girls, too. You know that's where Miss IT, Gretchen Wilson calls home.
You wanna see a real IT girl? Then watch CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and very special guest, the epitome of IT, Trisha Yearwood. Her mom, Gwen who co-authored Georgia Cookin' in an Oklahoma Kitchen , came with her daughter to my kitchen and she is plumb IT, too. Show airs Nov. 9 where all good things happen. CMT.
The late Marijohn Wilkin, hit songwriter and music publisher, was Music Row's first IT girl. I remember so well when Danny Dill was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975. Marijohn said, "Danny made a whole lot of us look good at Cedarwood Publishing back in the early days." Danny passed away Oct. 23 at 84 and will always be remembered for co-writing "Long Black Veil" with Marijohn. She will be remembered for breaking the male mold by writing hits when it wasn't hip for a girl to do such.
And with her guitar, her songwriting, her singing, her entertaining and her "here I am" smile, Miranda Lambert is the coolest IT girl of all.
View Hazel's Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Bread.