Through happy coincidence, this weekend has become a country music lover’s paradise at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
The Center for the Arts booked American music icon Willie Nelson for the Bear Yuba Land Trust’s “Stars Under the Pines” fundraiser. That concert sold out more than two months in advance, so when Merle Haggard became available for the following night, The Center jumped at the opportunity to create a two-night Classic Country Weekend.
“The Nevada County Fairgrounds is an ideal setting for live music with expansive lawns and plenty of shade under the tall pines,” said Center Executive Director Julie Baker.
The fairgrounds will be in full dress with a professional stage, sound and lights and a wide variety of food vendors, beer, wine and the newly concocted “Classic Country Cocktail” available at the bar.
Friday night’s “Stars Under the Pines” features an opening set by Pegi Young and the Survivors followed by Willie Nelson and Family. Gala attendees will feast on barbecue provided by Emily’s Catering with an opportunity to purchase artwork by a curated group of artists whose works were inspired by Land Trust sites. For all attendees, there is an opportunity to learn about land conservation efforts and environmental groups in our area, a silent auction of more than 200 items and a live auction at intermission, which includes a signed Willie Nelson guitar to benefit Bear Yuba Land Trust.
Tickets are still available for Saturday’s Merle Haggard concert. The festivities begin early with separate sets from Grammy-winning songwriter Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Merle’s son Noel Haggard. Regional singer/songwriters kick off the show at 5 p.m.
“We take seriously our mission of showcasing the area’s talent, so we’ve added some of the area’s favorite songwriters to the bill to create a mini-festival of great music,” Baker said.
Local performers include Dakota Sid Clifford, Sacramento songwriter Lee Bob Watson, the duo of Brendan Phillips and Bodhi Busick and hometown bluegrass favorites Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin.
Over the years, Merle Haggard has become the bard of the working man with his anthems born with dirt under their fingernails. His early years provided him with infinite raw material to be spun into the rich imagery that is now indelibly imprinted on American music. His days outside the law were woven into “Lonesome Fugitive,” “Sing Me Back Home” and “Branded Man.” His understanding of his mother’s torment led to “Mama Tried” and “Hungry Eyes.” His affinity for the hourly laborer produced classics like “Workin’ Man Blues” and “5:01 Blues.”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott has been called “The King of the Folksingers” by none other than Bob Dylan. In 1995, Ramblin’ Jack received his first of four Grammy nominations and the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Elliott the National Medal of the Arts. With more than 40 albums under his belt, Elliott is one of folk music’s keystones. Johnny Cash,Tom Waits, Beck, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones have all paid tribute to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
With a six-decade career and 200-plus albums, Willie Nelson has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor and activist. In 2010, he released Willie Nelson’s Country Music, produced by award winning T Bone Burnett, and it received a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album. In 2011 Nelson’s album releases included “Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles” with Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones, as well as “Remember Me Vol. 1,” his 14-song collection of country music’s most definitive songs.
At both concerts, food and beverages will be available for purchase. Food vendors include Calla Lily Crepes, Coloma Wraps, Emily’s Catering & Cakes, Matteo’s Public, Papa Murphy’s, Smiley Guys Smokehouse, The Old 5Mile House, Culture Shock Yogurt, Lazy Dog Ice Cream and Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters. Enjoy a libation from Besemer Cellars, Indian Springs Vineyards, Lagunitas Brewery, Naggiar Vineyards, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Nevada City Winery.