‘Benefit Concert for Coal Country’ announced

PRESTONSBURG — Six Eastern Kentucky musicians will come together for a special concert in Prestonsburg this month to help coal miners who were laid off and were not paid after Blackjewel went bankrupt.

The ‘Benefit Concert for Coal Country” will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Mountain Arts Center, featuring musicians Sean Whiting, Nick Jamerson, Logan Hall, Bek and the Starlight Revue, the Laid Back Country Picker and Waylon Ray Nelson.

All of the musicians are performing free of charge and the MAC is donating the facility for this concert. Officials say all proceeds from the tickets sales and donations will benefit Blackjewel miners who were laid off without pay.

“We just feel we need to help with any chance we can,” said MAC Director Joe Campbell. “This is a bad situation for a lot of miners and families, so we’re here to help when we can, and this popped up at the right time.”

Lexington attorney Mark Wohlander, a columnist for Appalachian Newspapers, launched the idea for a benefit concert to help these coal miners. He and co-organizer Keith Roberts, a Pike County native who works at iDitty-MAJ Interactive Media of Tennessee, and said they couldn’t believe how quickly the concert came together.

Wohlander said, “It’s amazing to me that all of these performers who I’ve never met stepped forward immediately and said, ‘What can I do to help?’ … It’s amazing how people in the mountains help each other.”

He reached out to Roberts last Thursday and, by the end of the day, they already had a pledge to use the MAC at no cost and partners willing to help. Roberts, who worked with Misha Curnutte of the Big Sandy Area Development District to recruit musicians, said those chosen to perform at the MAC understand the area and were willing to help.

“Nobody said, ‘No.’ Nobody said, ‘I’m not available, I’d love to help, but …,’” Roberts said. “Everybody said, ‘Whatever we need to do, we’ll do.’ It was just amazing how easy this was for me as a producer to say, you know, I didn’t really have to call in any favors or anything at all. People said, ‘Absolutely, absolutely, we’ll do it.’”

Talking about musicians donating their time and the MAC donating the facility, Roberts said, “Everybody has just really gone above and beyond to make this event special.”

Campbell reported that most of the performers were either previously employed by the coal mining industry, have family members who worked in the industry or worked in jobs related to the mining industry. These musicians will perform all sorts of music, from rock and roll, to “folk Appalachian,” to country, Campbell said.

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