(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 heard about Sarah Buxton when Keith Urban recorded "Stupid Boy," a song she'd co-written. She recently showed up in my kitchen where we shot an episode of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks. Since I'd never met her, I had to learn the whole nine yards. Like where she was born. (Lawrence, Kan.)
After hearing Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the girl started singing. She was 2 years old and developed a passion for radio, a passion she still has. It never crossed her mind that someone actually wrote songs, at least not until she was 17 and discovered Fleetwood Mac when a bunch of kids in a talent show performed "The Chain." It hit her like a bolt of lightning. Her mom bought her Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Greatest Hits, and she double-dosed on Stevie Nicks' lyrics. A year later, she moved to Nashville by herself and, pretty soon, Sarah began writing songs.
One of Music Town's finest writers, Craig Wiseman, met Sarah and introduced her to Dann Huff, a record producer who has worked with Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, among others. After that, Huff introduced her to Randy Goodman, president of Lyric Street Records.
In 2005, when she signed with Lyric Street Records, Sarah had an entire marketing plan mapped out in her head. She was going to release her first record immediately, have it go platinum and one hit would follow another and another. It didn't happen that way, though. Every time she'd perform, people would ask where they could buy her record, and she'd tell them to wait. With no record out, she was still nominated as the ACM's top new female vocalist in 2008 and 2009. Established artists kept calling her, and Dierks Bentley, Martina McBride and Kenny Rogers were among those checking out her songs.
She co-wrote songs with her buddy, Jedd Hughes, and produced a few tunes for her album. Like Urban, Jedd is Australian. With Jedd in her band, Sarah is opening shows during the Martina McBride/Trace Adkins tour. She's waited a long time for this, but she now knows it was worth it. She remembers what Keith Urban told her backstage many songs ago: "When you do it for the love of the music, the rest works itself out." So true.
Sarah's self-titled debut album will hit the shelves on Tuesday (Feb. 23). Go buy yourself a couple or more. You can see the beautiful Miss Buxton in the kitchen with me on CMT's Southern Fried Flicks on March 20.
Josh Thompson Carrying the Country Torch
When Waylon Jennings and Harlan Howard died within about a month of each other in 2002, a little bit of all of us died. Who is gonna sing the songs? Who can sing and play guitar, too? Who is gonna write the songs? A whole lot of us grieved over the loss of these two great men who had given so much to country music. But we wanted more. Will anyone else write with feeling and sing from the heart? The good Lord dropped Jamey Johnson right in our very presence -- like a gift. A man who can put words together like Hank Williams did. Another Alabama boy, too. "Praise be!" I say.
But that isn't all. Guess what else. Josh Thompson is from Cedarburg, Wis., but he's as country as Hank or Jamey. His Columbia album, Way Out Here, will be released Tuesday (Feb. 23). He already scored a Top 20 single with "Beer on the Table," but the second song on his album is titled "Blame It on Waylon." Once you hear it, you'll understand why I want the lovers of country music to hear Josh's powerful voice. He's as blue-collared as Waylon and Harlan. He can't help but be. His dad had Josh pouring concrete when he was just 12 years old.
Kellie Pickler Is Moving On Up
Nobody can be prouder of Kellie than I am. Like me, she's a native North Carolina girl. But, unlike me, Kellie has moved into a sprawling 4,800-square-foot mansionette in Nashville with four bedrooms, 4.5 baths, a swimming pool, hardwood floors, stunning fireplace and a massive walk-in closet for all her shoes. Rumor has it the 23-year-old beauty plopped down 1.4 million bucks for the place, and I am so thankful she can afford such a house. This wonderful news brought tears to my eyes. Kellie was raised by her grandparents in a single-wide trailer with one bath on the outskirts of Albemarle, N.C. If my memory serves me right, I believe Kellie and her grandparents had an outdoor john -- like my folks did. Her grandma went to heaven when Kellie was 14. Grandpa went with Kellie to The Ellen DeGeneres Show this past week.
Help Haiti Live Concerts
The incredible Alison Krauss, leader of the marvelous Union Station band featuring Jerry Douglas, announced their involvement with Compassion International's fundraising concerts billed as Help Haiti Live. Joining Alison and her band for Saturday's (Feb. 27) show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium will be Big Kenny, Jars of Clay, Mat Kearney and several others. The same night, Amy Grant and LeAnn Rimes will be among those taking the stage at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles for the same reason -- to raise money for Compassion International's relief efforts in Haiti.
On Valentine's Day, Gretchen Wilson wrapped her first week of her I've Got Your Country Right Here club tour with a powerful rendition of the national anthem at the NBA All-Star game. A crowd of 108,000 people witnessed it live at the new Cowboys Stadium near Dallas while the event was televised throughout the world.
And then there's the story about Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones of the popular duo, Steel Magnolia.
"Until very recently, Josh and I have been struggling musicians," Meghan notes. "Last year, we were completely broke, and I wasn't expecting anything for Valentine's Day. Then Josh gave me an old classical guitar he'd painted flowers on. And on the back, he wrote my initials and 'C.B.Y.D.T.Y.' When I asked him what it stood for, he said, 'Can't Buy You Diamonds This Year.' It was priceless."
Even More News
Brad Paisley, the Zac Brown Band, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride and Lady Antebellum have signed on to perform at CMA Music Festival on June 10-13 in Nashville.
Trace Adkins is such a sweet man, I really felt for him when a pickup truck crossed the center line and crashed head-on into one of his tour buses near Shreveport, La., on Feb. 13. Trace wasn't on board, but five members of his band and crew were treated for minor injuries. The driver and a passenger in the pickup died.
I see where 27,030 fans in Sydney, Australia, paid a total of $2 million to see Taylor Swift perform in concert. She's a worldwide phenom!
The wonderful Miranda Lambert brings her Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars tour to you this spring. Miranda's first headlining tour begins March 18 in Beckley, W.Va., and will be visiting 22 cities. Among those opening various shows are David Nail, James Otto, Randy Houser and Wade Bowen.
The ever-wonderful Vince Gill will perform at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival on June 25 at Chicago's Toyota Park. Also on the bill: the Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Jeff Beck and many others. All profits will benefit the Crossroads Centre, a Clapton-founded facility for those dealing with drug and alcohol problems.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Bleu Cheese Dressing.