By Katie Lovett Features Editor
Newburyport Daily News
---- — The Belleville Roots Music Series continues this weekend when rhythm and blues artist JD McPherson performs two shows.
His visit to Newburyport is just days before McPherson heads to New York City to make an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
A former teacher, McPherson pursued his music dreams after budget cuts eliminated his job. He is visiting Newburyport for the first time. The native of Broken Arrow, Okla., self-released his debut album “Signs and Signifiers” in 2010. It was re-released by Rounder Records last year.
McPherson’s concert will offer audiences his unique mix of rock ’n’ roll, R&B and rockabilly music of the 1950s. Tomorrow, McPherson will perform during a dance at the Belleville Church stage room, beginning at 8 p.m. Due to the overwhelming response for that show, which sold out extremely quickly, organizers of the concert series approached McPherson’s promoters to inquire about adding a second show.
“The first show seemed to sell out quickly largely from Internet orders which we assume mostly came from JD’s website,” organizer Ken Irwin wrote in an e-mail. “JD has built up a very loyal following and his fans are willing to travel good distances to see him.”
Since McPherson is staying in the area to perform on Saturday in Salem, he will return to Newburyport on Sunday night for his third show of the weekend. That concert begins at 7 p.m. and is intended for local audiences.
“One of our goals at Belleville Roots has to been to bring high quality and diverse music to Newburyport, but the intent was to have the shows for members of our community,” Irwin added. “Almost all of our shows have been attended by Newburyporters and we’ve grown to recognize many of those who are repeat attendees. We heard from quite a few people that they had planned on coming to the show on Friday, but were too late and the show was sold out.”
“It’s pretty rare to have an act to be playing a venue in Newburyport and then to be on Letterman two weeks later,” Irwin added. “Pretty cool.”
The Roots Music Series began as a way to introduce the community to a more diverse mix of music and new artists. The series is a fundraiser for the Belleville Church and proceeds are used to maintain the church’s historic buildings. Following McPherson, the program includes 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.
“The series celebrates music ranging from a cappella to zydeco and could include many things in between such as blues, bluegrass, Cajun, Celtic, country folk, gospel, Irish, jazz and world music,” Irwin said.
As more members of the community are introduced to the program, its popularity grows, he added. “When I first came to college in the Boston area, it was during the heyday of the Club 47, arguably the best folk music club in the country,” Irwin said.
“The booking was so good there that I would often go even if I had never heard the act because I had always seen good shows there, and I wanted to build up that kind of reputation with our Belleville Roots series.
“I think that our shows have been consistently high quality musically, and the artists are appealing and we’re introducing the community to music that they might not have been familiar with,” he added.
Fellow committee member Diane Crofts said the performers also appreciate the reception they receive in the city.
“The opportunity to see performers with excellent musical talents perform in an intimate setting provides for a special time for the audience,” she said. “The performers, too, appreciate the proximity they have to the audience and the warm reception they receive while in Newburyport.”
The series exposes listeners to music they may normally never have a chance to hear, she said.
“We are learning that people are willing to travel an hour or longer to hear good music,” Crofts said. “We are learning that people living in Newburyport are appreciative of the music being presented and want to be a part of the scene by volunteering at the concerts or becoming regular attendees at our shows.”
IF YOU GO
What: JD McPherson
Where: Belleville Congregational Church, 300 High St., Newburyport
When: tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.
How: Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 day of show; $10 children 12 and younger. Tickets are available at Dyno Records, 1 Middle St., Newburyport; Belleville Congregational Church office on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Belleville Thrift Shop on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon, or online at www.bellevillechurch.org/roots.php.