Can you feel that Farm Aid Energy?

Oh boy, Willie has to be getting ready to go to New Jersey, for Farm Aid.  Maybe he’s already out there.  I heard he was in Hawaii, with his family.   He must have flown, or maybe met up with the buses somewhere.  Don’t forget, they are webcasting it at their site:

 BRIAN KERSEY / Associated Press

They do call it the Garden State, after all. So though “green vegetables” may not be the most common word-association answer to “Camden,” this year’s Farm Aid benefit concert will be at the Tweeter Center in the city recently named the nation’s poorest and most dangerous.

That means that Saturday, the Farm Aid four – Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, who perform every year – will be spending the day in New Jersey singing on behalf of family farmers, along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Gov’t Mule, Arlo Guthrie, Steel Pulse, and polka king Jimmy Sturr, among others.

Nelson founded Farm Aid in 1985 in a charitable effort to help keep struggling farmers on their land. The Boston-based organization has raised more than $29 million with annual concerts whose locale shifts every year, but never to the Northeast before this weekend. These days, Farm Aid concentrates on supporting healthful, environmentally friendly food, and helping growers connect directly with consumers though local farmers markets.

Here’s what to expect from a sampling of the 16 acts, from the big four on down.

Willie Nelson. Nelson was charged in Louisiana earlier this month after 1.2 pounds of marijuana was found on his tour bus. That’s no blow to his image: Nelson’s fondness for organic greenery has been mythologized in such tunes as Toby Keith’s “Weed With Willie.” It does, however, create a smoke screen that makes it easy to forget what a genius interpreter of American song this 73-year-old is. His two 2006 albums can remind us: You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, which came out in the spring, and Songbird, a rocked-out collaboration with young buck Ryan Adams, due next month.

Neil Young.Passionate and prolific: Those are the words that best describe Young. At 60, he’s still committed to a handful of causes like Farm Aid that he cares about deeply. And with an output that stretches from Buffalo Springfield to this year’s protest album, Living With War, the man can assemble quite a set list.

John Mellencamp. Farm Aid charter member Mellencamp doesn’t always get his props. But if you’re going to list the major American voices of the rock era, this Hoosier belongs right at the top along with Bob Seger and Tom Petty. What’s really impressive is the way he continues to mature and explore over more than 20 albums.

Dave Matthews.Matthews has always managed to defy description, from his craggy voice to his exotic music, part pop, part jam band and part jazz fusion. And he’s one of the few artists who has remained an ardent activist without turning his songs into stiff manifestos. He’s a funky man of conscience.

Jerry Lee Lewis. Mamas, hide your daughters. “The Killer” is in town. And on his new superstar-heavy album of duets, Last Man Standing, Lewis, who turns 71 today, bends the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page and John Fogerty to his will. Goodness, gracious, there’s still plenty of life left in this man.

Steve Earle and Allison Moorer.The first couple of alt-country have been a touring item since getting married last year and collaborating on Moorer’s pop-flavored 2005 disc, Getting Somewhere. Moorer is a soulful belter who provides dulcet counterpoint to Earle’s raspy-voiced roots-rock, which is always marked by its expert craftsmanship and rebellious ardor.

Shelby Lynne.Moorer’s sibling Lynne is also on the bill, which could make for some stirring sisterly duets. After getting lost in the country music star-making machinery for years, Lynne found herself with 2000’s I Am Shelby Lynne. The Alabama-bred vocalist was back on form with last year’s Suit Yourself.

Steel Pulse.The otherwise American rock-folk-country Farm Aid focus takes a brief detour with Steel Pulse, the veteran British reggae stalwarts led by David Hinds, whose Rastafarianism should mess nicely with the agrarian vibe at the Tweeter. And don’t be surprised if avowed reggae fan Nelson shows up to share the mike.

Los Lonely Boys.These proteges of Willie Nelson – Henry, JoJo and Ringo Garza – offer a unique blend of blistering guitar, richly romantic ballads, and harmonies so tight only born hermanos could come up with them. With their sweet brand of Tex-Mex, the Garza brothers, like Los Lobos before them, prove that music has no borders.

The complete list of performers includes Roy Head, Arlo Guthrie, Gov’t Mule, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, Pauline Reese and Danielle Evin.

Farm Aid Events

Now-Sunday: Fresh From the Family Farm: A Restaurant Campaign to Benefit Farm Aid. Sample items from local farms at restaurants in Philadelphia and South Jersey. For a list, visit

Today: Drawing of Farm Aid tickets. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Reading Terminal Market. Visit the Fair Food Farmstand for a chance to win lawn tickets to the concert.

Today: Making Urban-Rural Connections: A Bus Tour With Farmers. 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Holiday Inn, Cherry Hill. Farm Aid and family farmers will tour innovative and organic farms. Stops include Pheasant Hill Farm, Rodale Institute Farm, and Somerton Tanks Farm. For information, visit

Saturday: Farm Aid 2006 presented by Silk Soymilk. Farm Aid president and founder Willie Nelson, board members Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, and other musicians will perform at Farm Aid. Gates open at 1 p.m. at the Tweeter Center, Camden waterfront. Philabundance, Farm Aid’s local partner, will collect nonperishable foods at the gates. The concert will be Webcast at beginning at 3:30 p.m. Tickets: $90.50 through Ticketmaster or the Tweeter box office. Phone: 215-336-2000 or 856-338-9000. For more information, go to

Saturday: Camden Children’s Garden Farm Fest. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Camden Children’s Garden, Camden waterfront. Farm Fest will promote eating fresh fruits and vegetables and buying locally grown produce. Activities include nutrition and planting activities for children and adults, storybook reading, entertainment and a farmers market of local produce. Cosponsored by Jersey Fresh/N.J. Dept. of Agriculture. Admission: $3 children; $5 adults. Free to Camden residents and Farm Aid concert ticket-holders. For more information, call 856-365-8733.

Not at the show? Join Daniel Rubin online Saturday as he blogs about Farm Aid, at The concert will be Webcast at 3:30 p.m. at Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or ddeluca@ Read his recent work at

dandeluca. Contact columnist David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or Read his recent work at

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