Minnesota State Fair 2012 country: Blake Shelton, Wanda Jackson and beer in plastic cups

Wanda Jackson at the Minnesota Zoo, Summer 2011
Wanda Jackson at the Minnesota Zoo, Summer 2011
Photo by Nikki Miller

Oooooh-wee, what's that smell? Smells like pigs, corn on the cob, and carny sweat. But then, a gentle waft of pheromones floats through the air -- the aroma of a 4-H gal from Faribault locking eyes with her Future Farmer of America. And the soundtrack to it all? The Minnesota State Fair's country music lineup, kicking off this morning with gospel girl-turned honky-tonk hopeful Morgan Frazier, and continuing with the Jacksons (Alan and Wanda, not those other ones), Blake Shelton, The Mavericks, and more.

Morgan Frazier
Thursday 8/23 and Friday 8/24, 10:30 and 11:45AM
Leinie Lodge, Free
She's not yet legal to drink, but she's crossed over from singing gospel music to performing on the stage of Tootsie's, Nashville's Broad Street lynchpin. Wuh-oh.

Bonnie Raitt
With Mavis Staples

Thursday 8/23, 7:30PM
Grandstand, $34.50-44.50

She's a little bit country, she's a little bit blue-eyed soul. But when it comes to roots music, Bonnie rules the roost.

Alan Jackson
With Jamey Johnson

Friday 8/24, 7:30PM
Grandstand, $40

He's released a few clunkers, to be sure, but Alan Jackson reps for honky-tonk music in Country's Top 40 with unmatched authenticity. An opening set by long-haired outlaw Jamey Johnson strengthens the bill.

Blake Shelton
With Sunny Sweeney

Saturday 8/25, 7:30PM
Grandstand, $31-41

Blake Shelton has just scored his seventh straight Number One hit, and he no doubt has his judging spot on The Voice, his high-profile union with singer Miranda Lambert, and his own strong voice (both on his records and on Twitter) to thank for it. We like this guy. Houston-born opener Sunny Sweeney was improbably an improv comedian before going country, so between the two of them, expect yuks a-plenty.

Elizabeth Cook
Saturday 8/25 and Sunday 8/26, 1:00 and 2:30PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Sirius subscribers will recognize Elizabeth Cook's voice from her fine morning show on the Outlaw Country station, "Apron Strings," where Cook spins Americana, outlaw, and alt-country music when she's not cussin' and spinnin' yarns about making music and touring with her husband Tim Carroll. Her persona is adorably redneck, but it's definitely not put on; born in Wildwood, Florida, Cook's mother and father were both musicians. Mom played mandolin and guitar on radio and television, and Dad plucked the upright bass in a prison band while serving time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for running moonshine. People still run moonshine? Why not.

Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys
Saturday 8/25 and Sunday 8/26, 3:30 and 4:45PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

A lot of questionable influences have crept their way into country music - jazz, pop, rap. Zydeco, on the other hand, is the best thing to happen to country, ever. Fais do-do, my babies.


The Johnny Hiland Band
Monday 8/27 and Tuesday 8/28, 3:30 and 4:45PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

When he's not moonlighting as a motivational speaker and children's author (no shit), Hiland has been working as a session musician for the likes of Toby Keith, Ricky Skaggs and Hank III, and has also made a name for himself as an exceptional guitar player, banjo picker, fiddler and mandolinist who has twice headlined the Grand Ole Opry.

Mandy Barnett
Wednesday 8/29 and Thursday 8/30, 3:30 and 4:30PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Not just anyone can pull off Patsy Cline's sultry, strong, but never over-dramatic voice, but Mandy Barnett's take has earned her a recurring spot in the musical production of "Always...Patsy Cline" for almost two decades now. Barnett got her start in Nashville with a spot on Ernest Tubb Record Shop's Midnight Jamboree, debuted on the Grand Ole Opry at the age of twelve, and she's since become a Nashville mainstay and frequent Opry guest.

The Mavericks
Wednesday 8/29 and Thursday 8/30, 8:30PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Don't miss this free show - The Mavericks never made it quite as big as they should have. The recently reunited band are without a doubt worth checking out, whether you're already a fan, or missed them a decade ago during their first go-round. Expect original members Paul Deakin, Raul Malo and Robert Reynolds (one-time guitarist Eddie Perez now tours with Dwight Yoakam).

Rascal Flatts
With Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge

Thursday 8/30, 7:00PM
Grandstand, $43-63

Eeeeeeeeeh... yeah. No. (Sorry.)

Wanda Jackson
Friday 8/31 and Saturday 9/1, 1:00 and 2:30PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

After over fifty years of touring, Wanda Jackson still rocks, and we're super excited for the fall release of the 74-year-old's 31st studio album, Unfinished Business, which will also serve as Justin Townes Earle's producing debut. The two delivered a powerhouse show last summer at the Minnesota Zoo, and at the time, we never would have have guessed an album would be borne of their friendship.

Will Hoge
Friday 8/31 and Saturday 9/1, 3:30 and 4:45PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

How does one follow an act like Wanda Jackson, when it's still light out and folks likely ain't yet had far too much to drink? Search me, but godspeed in your efforts, Will Hoge.

Mockingbird Sun
Sunday 9/2 and Monday 9/3, 10:30 and 11:45AM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Mockingbird Sun's bio reads that their namesake is a bird known to sing straight through the night, that they are "going out on tour and wherever they go, they will play and they will sing" - how novel! - and that like this bird, "they might even sing straight through the night." Maybe someone needs to clue this Texas-born, Nashville-based pop-savvy outfit that they're playing the morning slot at the Minnesota State Fair, under the bright-eyed watch of a buck-toothed gopher in a green and white jacket. Whether or not they hold true on their promise of an all-nighter, we can see these guys making a splash in the near future and wouldn't mind tuning into the Opry one of these days and hearing their Pure Prairie League/Eagles-influenced throwback country-rock harmonies.

The Cleverlys
Sunday 9/2 and Monday 9/3, 1:00 and 2:30PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Okay, you're gonna want to check out this act, back for another year at the Fair. The video kinda explains it all:

The Bad Larrys
Sunday 9/2 and Monday 9/3, 6:00PM
Leinie Lodge, Free

Rounding out the Fair's country music offerings on Sunday and Monday night are The Bad Larrys, and acoustic duo hailing from Montana's Flathead Valley who describe themselves as "Willie Nelson meets Lake Wobegon." Sorry. We hope that didn't scare anyone away.

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