Nell Robinson stands her ground in no-man’s land with songs and stories |

Nell Robinson stands her ground in no-man’s land with songs and stories


WHO: Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Joyce Maynard

WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday

TICKETS: $22 members $25 general public (plus applicable fees), available at the Center’s Box Office in person, by phone at 530-274-8384 ext. 14, online at or at BriarPatch Co-op.


“You are invited to a gathering at my family’s farmhouse in L.A. — that’s lower Alabama to you Yankees. … Everyone is gathering on the front porch of an old shotgun farmhouse. …. It’s been a hot day and we are cooling ourselves off with sweet tea.

“Conversation has turned to war and there is a lot to say …”

With this, Nell Robinson invites you into her show — Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land — Saturday night, Nov. 1, at the Center for the Arts.

This concert chronicles — through songs, stories and poetry — her family’s 250-year history of military service, and protest, starting with the American Revolution.

Joining Robinson on stage will be the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and author/storyteller Joyce Maynard. Robinson will be accompanied by her band, featuring Jim Nunally (guitar), Jim Carlin (bass), Zach Harmon (percussion) and Levon Henry (clarinet, saxophone). Pete Grant of Auburn will sit in on slide guitar for this show.

“It’s songs, letters, songs, poetry, songs, stories and songs,” Robinson said in a phone interview with The Union Tuesday. The music is a “cool fusion of bluegrass, Americana and jazz.”

“This is a non-political show,” Robinson emphasized, suitable for veterans and conscientious objectors alike. “I just want to keep the conversation going. There’s been too much shouting.”

In a preview provided by Robinson, the focus of the concert is not on whether a war was right or wrong, rather it’s about the effect of war on families — the men and women who leave to fight, and the loved ones they leave behind.

Told mostly through music with snippets of humor, letters, stories and poetry, the tunes in the show range from Robinson’s soulful a cappella “Rose of No-Man’s Land” to 83-year-old Ramblin’ Jack Elliott cooking on “Drive On.”

And although the show gets heavy at times, “It ends in a happy place,” Robinson promised.

Dedicated to vets

Because of the sacrifices her family — and so many others — have made, Robinson is arranging for donations to local veterans’ organizations at every stop on her tour.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 535 of Nevada County will receive a $5,000 grant, and the community will be challenged to match that grant, Robinson said.

Everyone who gives $500 or more will get a copy of the brand-new CD Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land and a photograph of Robinson and Elliott, both signed by Robinson and Elliott, according to Robinson.

Peter Burelle, vice-president of Chapter 535, confirmed he will represent the chapter at the show and explain how Vietnam Vets of America contributes to the community.

“If we’ve got money in the kitty, we’re willing to step in and help out,” Burelle said.

In the past, he said, the chapter has helped groups as diverse as Women of Worth and the Special Olympics. They also help disabled vets on an individual basis, Burelle said.

Additionally, the chapter is committed to supporting 850 Montagnard children in seven orphanages in the mountains between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land

Although the Rose of No-Man’s Land CD is not scheduled to be released until Tuesday, Robinson confirmed the album will be available for sale at the concert Saturday.

In addition to Robinson, Elliot and her hand-picked band, the CD features guests Kris Kristofferson, John Doe, Kathy Baker and Maxine Hong Kingston. Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell contributed two songs as well. The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Joe Henry.

Earlier this year, a PBS crew taped Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage Coffee House. It will be a segment of a 2015 show on PBS called “Music Gone Public.”

My story, your story

The Rose in No-Man’s Land project has been evolving over many years.

“The show has gotten a life of its own,” Robinson said.

It’s not just about Nell Robinson’s stories anymore.

“We want your stories,” Robinson said.

She explained that so many people came up to her after her shows that she felt a need to collect their stories — and maybe incorporate some of them into future shows.

With the help of artist Mark Pinto, “storybooths” will be set up in the lobby of the Center for the Arts “before, during and after the show.” Using vintage telephones, people can listen to other people’s stories or record their own, said Robinson.

A roving reporter will also be recording stories from the concert patrons.

Repeating her theme of non-partisan reconciliation, Robinson concluded, “I just want to continue the conversation.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at

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