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HOT DISH: A Darling Named Sarah
More News About Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Other Country Stars
Hot Dish
Hot Dish
(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.)

Singer-songwriter Sarah Darling's journey had an unbelievable beginning, followed by twists and turns that brought her where she is today. She was standing in line for an autograph following a concert in Des Moines, Iowa, when a Music Row exec overheard someone praise her singing voice. He asked Sarah to mail him a CD to his office in Nashville. She did. He called her and told her she needed to move to Nashville. Sarah saved $5,000 and moved to Music Town, got a job as a waitress and learned the slow-go momentum of the music biz. That was a decade ago.

I've had an interest in Sarah for quite a while. I believe in her as a person as well as a singer. Michael McCall, who does my hair and makeup for CMT's Southern Fried Flicks has been Sarah's makeup person for ions. Michael kept me in the loop, telling me how great she sings, how good she looks, her Grand Ole Opry performance and how much she enjoys cooking. Last year, a company that manufactures slow cookers partnered with Sarah allowing her to give away a whole passel of their products. One ended up in my kitchen. I love it and use it often. Finally, someone from Iowa came into my kitchen not to talk about politics. She was a delight.

A top three finalist on the E! network reality show The Entertainer, she was discovered because of her MySpace page, where producer Jimmy Nichols heard her song "Stop the Bleeding" and signed Sarah to his Black River Music record label. Her debut album, Every Monday Morning, was released in 2009. At snail's pace, her second album, Angels and Devils, was released in 2011 with the lead single "Something to Do With Your Hands."

Sarah's most recent single, "Home to Me," was unveiled in August, and a new album produced by Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert, Hunter Hayes, Rascal Flatts) is set for release in 2013. Sarah wrote or co-wrote almost every song on the record.

"Home to Me" sure sounds like a hit to me. I do hope radio will get all over that record. Besides, Sarah's latest big news is she just inked with the mighty Creative Artists Agency for concert bookings, and that ain't nothing but great news for the girl from Iowa who came to my kitchen. Believe you me, she's a darling in more ways than one.

Duets Are Popping Up All Over
I told you how Jamey Johnson came up with Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran, a powerful duets album featuring great singers like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Bobby Bare, Ronnie Dunn, Emmylou Harris and other special guests. Well, there are some other recent duets worth mentioning.

Blake Shelton, who is spending his time these days judging and mentoring acts on NBC's The Voice, has joined fellow coach Christina Aguilera on her new single "Just a Fool," a track from her new album, Lotus.

Carrie Underwood teams up with Aerosmith on "Can't Stop Loving You," a track on the band's Music From Another Dimension album.

And, of course, Kelly Clarkson tapped Vince Gill for "Don't Rush," her latest single. It's included on her Greatest Hits -- Chapter One collection which also features "Don't You Wanna Stay," her hit duet with Jason Aldean.

Garth Brooks Celebrates Charity Project in Phoenix
Still a good guy, Garth Brooks celebrated with Billy Michaels of radio station KNIX in Phoenix at the opening of the Child Life Zone play area at Phoenix Children's Hospital. The addition was funded by the Garth Brooks-Troy Aikman Teammates for Kids Foundation and local athletes from the area.

Frank Peppiatt Made History With Hee Haw
As I read about the passing of 85-year-old Frank Peppiatt, who created Hee Haw with fellow TV producer John Aylesworth, I recalled the marvelous 25 years of sheer entertainment they gave us with the series.

It doesn't take a genius to know that Buck Owens and Roy Clark were perfect hosts of the show. Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones and Stringbean were perfect regulars on that weekly event. Roy Acuff and Little Jimmy Dickens were perfect "drop-ins." And the list of special guests represented the very best of country with stars like Johnny Cash and June Carter, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Porter Wagoner and all the beloved entertainers who gave us their very best.

Frank and John accomplished a lot with other TV variety shows, but the reason they were the most successful producers on television during the '60s and '70s was Hee Haw, the longest-running and most popular country music TV series in history!

Donna Ulisse's Wonderful Holiday Album
Bluegrass singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse has released All the Way to Bethlehem, a new Christmas album of songs she wrote or co-wrote. You fans of country Christmas songs owe it to yourself to give a listen to this wonderful music.

I'd been sent a copy of the CD, but I got so busy, I hadn't played it. Then one sunshiny day, Donna showed up at the house with some wonderful Mexican lasagna. We said grace and ate like pigs, and I gave a listen -- or 10 or 12 listens -- to the album. If you love the reason for the season, I suggest you grab a copy of Donna's record. You will be glad you have the record when the nights grow long and cold and winter's wind pushes through the cracks and crevices.

After Thanksgiving is a great time for Christmas music.

A Final Thanksgiving Note
Happy Thanksgiving from my family and myself to you all and your family. May God richly bless you and may we have peace this entire holiday season.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: After-Thanksgiving Salad.
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