(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.)
I really want to begin by writing, "How are you doing? Fine, I hope." News is scarce as hen's teeth. The biggest thing that's happened in 2009 is Tim McGraw and Faith Hill introducing the Jonas Brothers to Nashville from the Ryman stage. Martina McBride sang with the trio, as did Brad Paisley who also played guitar with the boys. Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and Vince Gill performed and magic-fingered Vince played guitar with the California kiddos.
Nobody spotted Taylor Swift at this event, but this is the only stage the girl missed in an entire year. Taylor is everywhere. When you are the most played artist in any genre in a whole year, you can pick and choose your stage. Why, you can even perform on Saturday Night Live on your mama's birthday.
Things are not so good with radio. I've been following country music since before Taylor and many other acts were born, but this is the first time in my career that famous names are being dropped from country radio stations. Guys and gals we've learned to know and love by their first names are without jobs. The economy is hurting radio, and it's hurting the record labels, therefore it reaches the artists.
I see where Brad Paisley may drop a couple buses that haul lighting by using folding equipment. That makes sense. Think about it -- two drivers for each truck. If he eliminates two trucks, there are four less beds a night and 12 fewer meals a day, plus less fuel, insurance and upkeep. Brad can still have a great light show for less.
Giving the fans the entertainment they expect is what's on the mind of major players like Brad and Kenny Chesney. Kenny, who sold out Boston's Gillette Stadium in less than 10 minutes in December for an August concert is lining up his summer tour already. So is Keith Urban, who has already invited his opening acts for his headlining tour this summer. Brad's Paisley Party Tour hits the road on Jan. 15 and has the marvelous Dierks Bentley opening shows until mid-March. On the first of April, Brad will release a new CD and the Paisleys expect their second child. Lastly, it's smart of Brad and Kenny to keep their prices down. Lots of their fans are country people who cannot afford Madonna- priced tickets. Between me and you, you'd have to pay me to go see Madonna. Who on this earth wants to see a half-dressed 50-year-old woman onstage wearing beach wear? Her bottom revealing more hide than a bikini can cover is not something I'd ever pay to see.
Let's Hear It for the Peeps
When the people speak, we listen and hopefully this year's People's Choice Awards will repeat and repeat. Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts gave it their best live performance. Both acts walked away looking like the biggest things in show biz. Carrie couldn't tote all her trophies -- favorite female singer, star under 35 and country song for "Last Name." Rascal Flatts won the favorite group award. Course, the peeps were on the money choosing Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" as the winner.
Hollywood Name/Nashville News
I see where Rebecca Romijn and hubby Jerry O'Connell are the proud parents of twin daughters born Dec. 28. One of the babies is named Dolly Rebecca Rose for Dolly Rebecca Parton. The second daughter, Charlie Tamara Tulip, is named for daddy's actor brother, Charlie O'Connell. Seems the baby mama loves her some Dolly.
Eli Young Band Selling Out
With 16 sold-out shows in six weeks, the Eli Young Band has got bragging rights, so I've invited the band to my kitchen. Stay tuned to CMT and watch for EYB. They sold out the 6,000-seat Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth and set attendance records in Denver, Kansas City, San Antonio, Chicago, Wichita, Memphis and everywhere they go. Radio, get ready to play "Always the Love Songs" by EYB. They're coming at you out of Texas like a locomotive.
I hear James Otto had rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder. Little ole shoulder cast will not stop the big guy. The man can sing with or without a cast.
Big Ole Crybaby
Yes, I admit it. I am a big ole crybaby. And was I ever when George Jones was presented his Kennedy Center Honors by first lady Laura Bush. Lady Bush was beaming. Her eyes lit up as she proudly smiled when she talked about the great George Jones song, "Walk Through This World With Me," which was a favorite of the first couple's "courting daze." The way the first lady drawled "daze," I am sure I spelled it right. Also, the president lip-synced along to each and every one of Jones' hits.
Alan Jackson sang his all-time favorite song and mine, "He Stopped Loving Her Today." The prez sang along. Shelby Lynne performed Jones' all-time favorite song, "Amazing Grace." The prez sang as Brad Paisley and Randy Travis honored their hero in song. Following his performance of a medley of hits, Garth Brooks correctly called Jones the greatest country singer who ever lived. CBS-TV did a grand job with this year's honorees. I'm thankful to God that I got to see George Jones honored in this deserving capacity.
While all us praying people are praying for president-elect Barack Obama, wouldn't you know funnyman Cledus T. Judd busied himself with a parody of Brad Paisley's hit "Waitin' on a Woman" called "Waitin' on Obama." The single is on iTunes, and the video will be released on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. Cledus T. allows that it's time for America to start laughing again. If it helps the economy, I'm prone to agree.
Billy Ray Cyrus has not changed one iota. My neighbor is a nurse who cares for sick little ones, including preemies at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Did Billy Ray ever pull a fast one on them. He showed up at the hospital unannounced, guitar in hand, Miley by his side, and they sang for the children and the nurses and doctors. I do love Billy Ray Cyrus. I love the way he's raising his children in church, and I love the way he still loves Tennessee.
Lady Antebellum performed Christmas Eve on the Today show. But they were home Christmas morning for that's where Charles Kelley was when he proposed marriage to his girlfriend. The trio, up for two Grammys, appeared last week on Late Night With Conan O'Brien on NBC-TV. Like Taylor Swift, Lady A is everywhere. Each time I see the trio perform, I smile and recall the time I walked into Elliston Place Soda Shop and there sat Linda Davis and her daughter, 3-year-old Hillary Scott sitting on stools digging that down-home cooking. I sat with them.
Dierks Bentley is invited to participate in iTunes Live From Soho Monday (Jan. 12) at the Big Apple Store in that New York neighborhood. He will perform tracks from his upcoming Feel That Fire album, set for a Feb. 3 release.
"It's not about the money -- it's about the fans," says the little guy with a big heart. Every summer for the past seven, Kenny Chesney has performed for over a million fans. Kenny realizes that his shows are making memories for his fans the very same way Keith Whitley made memories for him. It's no wonder Kenny finds his way to the tailgating in the parking lot. He's with his people -- making memories.
Pretty Mackenzie Adkins, daughter of superstar Trace Adkins, will play a Munchkin in the Music City engagement of The Wizard of Oz at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Jan. 13-18. Ten-year-old Mackenzie is one of 12 students from the Ann Carroll School of Dance in Franklin, Tenn. Trace is the father of five daughters ranging in age from 4 to 23.
When Brad Paisley wrote a letter to Sony Nashville headman Joe Galante regarding the song "Man of the House" by Chuck Wicks, Joe must have sat down and taken notice. Recently I received the CD with lyrics along with Brad's note. Little children, grandparents and everyone in between will scream when this song is running for both single and song of the year in 2009, Hazel sez.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Red Beans and Rice.