HOT DISH: Time to Offer Congratulations to Country Stars

Keith Urban, George Strait, Zac Brown Band, Faith Hill Are Among Those on the List

(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

Lots of accomplishments are being made these days in the country music world, so it seems like a great time to offer some congratulations and give credit where credit is due.

"How sweet it is," says Keith Urban upon learning that "Sweet Thing" is the latest in his list of No. 1 singles. Congratulations to the wonderful guitar picker, singer, songwriter, entertainer and producer. I hear Keith and his band wowed the folks attending last week's Country Radio Seminar in Nashville during his club appearance at the Rutledge.

Our real live cowboy king, George Strait, sold out the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in less than an hour. Located in Arlington, Texas, the $1.1 billion venue seats 80,000 people and is expandable to accommodate 100,000. Country queen Reba McEntire, the ever-wonderful Blake Shelton and the beautiful Julianne Hough will be joining King George on June 6 for the first event at the stadium. Congratulations to all of the entertainers.

Big ol' country congratulations go to the Zac Brown Band on their great big ol' No. 1 single, "Chicken Fried." Zac, a mighty fine singer, is one of the nicest guys to ever walk into my kitchen for CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith, and he can pick the living daylights out of a guitar.

The big boys will entertain the fans big time. I'm talking about Toby Keith and Trace Adkins' America's Toughest tour which hits the highways June 18 in Holmdel, N.J. Toby and Trace are tough behind the wheel or behind the microphone. Both of these tough guys have got congratulations from me. I think they're hot.

Congratulations are in order for Faith Hill and songwriters Tim Nichols, Craig Wiseman and KK Wiseman for their recent No. 1 single, "A Baby Changes Everything." The writers did a great job in coming up with the song, and Faith did a marvelous job singing it. If you've heard Faith sing it, I'm sure you know it is in the category with the classic "Away in a Manger." Hill and the songwriters celebrated the success last week with parties at ASCAP and BMI.

Fans of superstar Randy Travis, get ready. On March 17, Randy will release I Told You So: The Ultimate Hits of Randy Travis, a 32-song package that includes classics such as "Diggin' Up Bones," "Forever and Ever, Amen," "On the Other Hand" and "Three Wooden Crosses." Congratulations to Randy and his longtime record producer, Kyle Lehning. You boys have made some great music and have been awarded for your hard work. Randy, one of the top selling solo artists of all time has sold more than 21 million albums while earning six Grammys and numerous awards from the CMA, ACM and American Music Awards.

Emerson Drive just returned from a Caribbean cruise that benefited a great cause -- cancer research. This is the second year the band has been involved with the University of Ohio's Buckeye Cure for Cancer cruise. Departing Tampa, Fla., they stopped in Key West for a club show before heading to Cozumel, Mexico. During their return to the U.S., the group performed during the cruise. Congrats, guys. Love you.

I'm very proud of Tracy Lawrence. His current single, "Up to Him," is from his upcoming inspirational CD titled The Rock. Congratulations, Tracy. You know each and every reason why I am proud of you. You know, you really are lucky to be alive. Thanks to the good Lord, those crazy days and nights are now history.

The folks in Austin, Texas, are excited over the Oak Ridge Boys coming to the South by Southwest music conference later this month. I promise that when the Oaks leave the stage, you will have been royally entertained. Congratulations to everybody.

Tracy Byrd departed the first week of March for Europe. It's his first overseas trip. The honky-tonking Byrd will stop in the U.K., Switzerland and Germany. Family man that he is, Tracy's young ones are on spring break, so he's taking along his flock and their pretty mama, too. Proud you're flying, Byrd-man.

Jo Dee Messina has set dates for her Music Room Series tour, five weeks of concerts that kick off on April 16 in Verona, N.Y., on April 16. With staging designed to resemble her living room at home, the shows are centered around Jo Dee's music and the stories behind her hits like "Heads Carolina, Tails California," "I'm Alright," "Bye, Bye" and "Bring on the Rain." Displaying a more informal side, Jo Dee will be fielding questions so fans can know her on a more personal level.

The incredible Vince Gill recently finished his month-long residency at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and was also recognized as an honorary professor by the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. At MTSU, Vince's two-and-a-half hour conversation and performance was part of the university's Tom T. Hall Writer Series celebrating songwriters, authors, poets and screenwriters by giving students, faculty and the public a chance to learn about the creative and business processes. Roy Moore, an MTSU dean, referred to Vince as "a master teacher." How do I congratulate plumb perfect Vince? I can't, so I'm just gonna love him.

Wearing his ever-present hat, tight jeans and snap shirt, Jason Aldean filmed a sold-out concert DVD to be released later this year. With his third album, Wide Open, out April 7 and his hit single, "She's Country," climbing the charts, it's time to congratulate J.A.

The always-wonderful Brad Paisley will finish his Paisley Party tour this month and then take time off to sleep in his own bed. He, beautiful wife Kimberly and their son Huck will spend some quality time together and wait for the new baby to arrive. I must congratulate Brad for all he stands for as a husband, dad, songwriter, singer, musician and entertainer. He's a good friend to me.

The best-looking smile in country music belongs to Jake Owen. His brand new album, Easy Does It, zoomed to No. 2 on the country chart during its first week out. Congratulations are in order.

Congratulations to the Whites on their 25th anniversary as members of the Grand Ole Opry. Buck, Sharon and Cheryl are the first family of the Opry. I was there when they were inducted as members. Time sure flies. It doesn't seem like 25 years have passed.

Congratulations Due Within the CMT Family

Call it self-promotion or anything you like, but some big congratulations are called for within the CMT family.

The new radio show, CMT Radio Live With Cody Alan, is taking names and kicking butt. Last week's guest lineup included Jimmy Fallon (host of NBC's new Late Night With Jimmy Fallon), Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift. Friday's (March 6) show alone featured Nick Jonas of the famous Jonas Brothers and Clint Black of The Celebrity Apprentice.

And congratulations to CMT executive vice president and general manager Brian Philips on his promotion to president of CMT. MTV Networks Music and Logo Group president Van Toffler made the announcement last week. Philips will manage the channel's overall portfolio including CMT, CMT Films,, CMT Pure Country and all brand extensions.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: EZ Sour Cream Pound Cake.

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