By Jim Sullivan
---- — For the past four years, the Belleville Roots Music Concert Series has been bringing eclectic blues, gospel and bluegrass music to the Belleville Congregational Church in Newburyport.
But never before have the headliners been so young.
“If parents are into getting their kids into music, then this would be a great place to bring them,” said Ken Irwin, a member of the Belleville Roots Music Committee. “They could say, ‘These people are not that much older than you are, and they are playing music and people are coming to see them. Isn’t that cool?’”
Both Berklee College of Music student, multi-instrumentalist and award-winning songwriter Molly Tuttle and 13-year-old singer-songwriter Hannah Logan will hit the Belleville stage on Saturday at 8 p.m. for an evening of roots music.
“I am really looking forward to it,” said Tuttle, 20. “I think it will be a really fun show, and Ken was talking to me about the venue and stuff, and it sounds like a great site.”
Co-founder of the national Rounder Records label, Irwin has worked to bring many well-known artists to the Belleville stage, including Della Mae, Ruthie Foster, The Gibson Brothers and the Von Trapp Children. The effort to help with the upkeep of the church’s High Street buildings soon began to take on a life of its own.
“It’s a little bit each time like reinventing the wheel,” Irwin said of the concert series. “We wanted to be different from the other coffeehouses and concert venues. We wanted to put our own stamp (on the scene) and bring in diversity.
“We’ve been bringing either Cajun or zydeco in every year during Mardi Gras time, and we’ve been doing an Irish show and a bluegrass show,” he said. “It’s (also) the only place where (my wife, Donna, and I) can put on a show and walk our dog during intermissions.”
Written about in Bluegrass Now and Flatpicking Guitar and Acoustic Guitar magazines, Tuttle has racked up nearly 2 million viewers on YouTube. In 2012, she was awarded music and composition merit scholarships to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the Hazel Dickens Memorial Scholarship from the Foundation for Bluegrass Music in Nashville, and Best Female Vocalist and Best Guitar Player by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. She also took first place in the Chris Austin Songwriting Competition at MerleFest in North Carolina. The Palo Alto, Calif., native has appeared at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the Strawberry Music Festival, as well as on “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Currently studying guitar performance at Berklee, Tuttle often plays shows in the Boston area. She was inspired to play by bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens and is more than happy to inspire others herself.
“I really love that idea,” Tuttle said. “I had some kids that I’ve gotten to teach guitar to before, and it was really fun, and it was so rewarding to see them start to play guitar.”
This will not be Tuttle’s first time in Newburyport; she played this year’s American Music and Harvest Festival in September. She will head a trio at the Belleville Church, offering up a combination of cover songs and originals.
“It’s hopefully the first in a series where we try to find really talented young artists who we can introduce to the community and to the world,” Irwin said. “It’s (also) really fun having the first significant show (for Hannah Logan).”
Saturday’s gig will mark Hannah’s first professional concert. Discovered by a music teacher in her hometown of Carver, Hannah often blends traditional roots music with the contemporary. A fan of vocalists Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Hank Williams, George Jones and Billie Holiday, Hannah writes, plays and sings her own compositions and will front a five-piece band on the Belleville stage.
“She’s still also being a normal girl, doing her soccer and all those other things,” Irwin said. “It’s really interesting just seeing these two young women at different ages and at different stages in their career.
“Molly has been studying Hannah online, and Hannah has been studying Molly online, and I don’t think it’s competition,” he said. “I think it’s more of a mutual appreciation and seeing what’s going on, and I think it’s pretty exciting for the both of them.”
Riding a youth wave can indeed be very exciting, and Irwin hopes the concert series can do it again in the future.
“It’s the first time we’ve done it, and we’re very excited about it,” Irwin said. “Even though we’ve been introducing this music into the community, this is an opportunity for us to have an important part in developing a career.
“We love that idea, and we are hoping that these rising stars and the (movement) will be something that will carry on throughout the years.”
If you go
What: “An Evening With Rising Stars Molly Tuttle and Hannah Logan”
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Belleville Congregational Church, 300 High St., Newburyport
How much: $20 in advance/$25 day of the show, $15 for students. Tickets are available at Dyno Records, 1 Middle St.; the Belleville office today and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the Belleville Thrift Shop (in the lower level of the church) on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon; and online at www.bellevillechurch.org/roots.php.