By Katie Lovett Features Editor
Newburyport Daily News
---- — As they enter the third year of the Roots Music Series, organizers of the popular music program are continuing to bring new faces to the Belleville Church in Newburyport.
“For us, that’s been a lot of fun, bringing new acts; I think it’s also fun for artists coming to a new town,” organizer Ken Irwin said this week.
It will be the first visit to Newburyport for all five performers in the concert series, and for some, it is their first trip to Massachusetts, Irwin said.
The schedule includes: Sierra Hull and Highway 111, bluegrass concert and barbecue dinner, Oct. 18; JD McPherson, Roots Rock ’n’ Roll Dance, Nov. 16; Ruthie Foster, soul and blues concert, Dec. 6; Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, Mardi Gras dinner and dance, Feb. 8; and a St. Patrick’s Day concert and dinner with Goitse on March 15.
All performances begin at 8 p.m. in the church’s stage room. The concert series is a fundraiser for the Belleville Church and proceeds are used to maintain the church’s historic buildings.
In creating the schedule for this year, Irwin said organizers were determined to once again host a Mardi Gras event and a St. Patrick’s Day concert, as both have been sell-out events during the past two years.
Rather than bring an American band to Belleville to sing Irish songs for St. Patrick’s Day, Irwin said, they chose to secure an Irish band right from Ireland.
“Goitse is a very young and exciting band with a lot of energy and really good singing,” Irwin said. “We love their energy. They were an early choice.”
Broussard, who hails from Louisiana, is a leader in Zydeco, and offers a blend of traditional songs, original tunes, single-note and triple-note accordion and fiddle. Broussard plays guitar, bass, fiddle and percussion instruments.
“He’s a great accordion player,” Irwin said. The Mardi Gras show is also a dinner dance.
But the concert series will kick off next week with a young performer who’s sparking a lot of excitement in the bluegrass world these days.
Sierra Hull, 21, has been at home on the stage for years. The singer, songwriter and mandolin player started to earn a local following while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, she was the first bluegrass performer ever to receive the school’s Presidential Scholarship.
Since her days in Boston, the Tennessee native has performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“When we talk about the future of bluegrass music, Sierra’s right there leading the way,” Irwin said. “She has a very, very sweet and melodic voice that makes her really accessible to people who like folk music and bluegrass.”
Irwin,who first met Hull when she was just a teenager, called the young artist “an amazingly gifted mandolin player, guitar player, songwriter and singer.”
“We’re really excited to have her here,” Samuelson said. Prior to the show, attendees can enjoy a barbecue dinner, catered by American Barbecue in Rowley, beginning at 6 p.m. Dinner tickets, which must be purchased by Oct. 16 at noon, are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger.
Next month, rhythm and blues artist JD McPherson will play in Newburyport shortly before heading to New York City to make an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“It’s a real coup for us,” Irwin said. A former teacher, McPherson lost his job due to the weak economy and decided to turn his energy to his first love, music.
His style of rock ’n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly music is rooted in his love of 1950s music, Irwin said.
“It’s great roots rock ’n’ roll; I think it will appeal to anyone who liked anything from the ’50s and early ’60s,” he added. “It’s a taste of Little Richard and rockabilly. It’s very danceable music.”
Soul and blues fans can hear Grammy-nominated singer Ruthie Foster’s “combustible blend of soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel” in December.
“We thought she’d be fantastic,” Irwin said.
During each show, the audience can engage in a question and answer period with the performers, which concert-goers enjoy, Samuelson said.
“They really like that they get to know the artists well,” she said.
IF YOU GO
What: Sierra Hull and Highway 111
When: Thursday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Belleville Congregational Church, 300 High St., Newburyport
How: $25 in advance, $30 day of show, $10 for children 12 and younger. Tickets are for sale at Belleville Thrift Shop, 300 High St.; Dyno Records, Middle Street, Newburyport; and online at www.mktix.com/bc.