Signs point to yes for JD McPherson 

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Oklahoma’s native son JD McPherson is on the edge — the edge of something really good.

He has always been a talent, one Oklahomans readily have adored since his early days with The Starkweather Boys in the mid-2000s. His taste for the music of yesteryear is matched only by a knack for making it feel vital and new. More people are taking notice of that gift every day now, but not just more people — bigger people, important people.

Upon rereleasing his debut, Signs & Signifiers, on Rounder Records (home of Alison Krauss) in 2012, he got to step up and play for millions on Late Show with David Letterman and Conan, introduced with obvious admiration — not complicit obligation — by each namesake host. Josh Homme (leader of Queens of the Stone Age) was so impressed by McPherson that he invited him to open the band’s massive Halloween show in Los Angeles earlier this year (“It was a shot in the arm, for sure,” McPherson said of the “surreal” experience), and he’s just days away from being greeted with praise by one of his musical heroes, X singer Exene Cervenka, after a California gig.

And then you have Sherlock himself wearing McPherson’s band shirt in pictures snapped by paparazzi.

“Benedict Cumberbatch really is the nicest person ever,” McPherson said of his encounter with the Sherlock star around the filming of August: Osage County. “He still wears that dadgum shirt. We need to get him a new one, because it’s getting pretty worn out.”

Hair near-perpetually slicked back, McPherson himself would be excused for being worn out after the near-relentless touring over the past four years, but he has big things on the horizon perking him and his bandmates right up.

Signs & Signifiers has been available to most since 2010, and the prospect of his follow-up — due in early 2015 — and the new opportunities (and set lists) it will afford is a welcome change. Creatively, the material promises to show that McPherson & Co. are more than pure revivalists.

“The first record was the record I always wanted to make: a rock-and-roll-with-all-three-words-underlined sort of record. The new record is one that I wanted to make but never knew I could,” McPherson said. “You want to expand the language a little. Those sounds morphed and changed into other things, and I wanted to explore that.”

The sophomore album won’t depart from the artistic era Signs was born from, but it will have some weirder “psychedelic” tones behind it.

“I wanted to breathe more life into the music as opposed to just recreate it,” McPherson said. “That’s my mission in life; if I can turn a kid onto Bo Diddley and David Byrne at the same time, then I’ll have done my life’s work.”

But right now, he’s shining a light on Vee-Jay Records, the influential label on Chicago’s Record Row that put out records by John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed that helped introduce The Four Seasons and The Beatles to America. Rounder Records acquired the label, and in no time, McPherson knocked out The Warm Covers EP (out now digitally and sold-out on vinyl), doing what he has always done best: digging in the dirt to find the precious treasures that American music had almost left behind.

“Rounder told us about the acquisition, and five seconds later, we decided to do a full 45 (RPM record). We geeked out,” he said. “Sometimes, the pizza gets delivered, and it’s obvious what you are supposed to do.”

Print head: Signs point to yes, After a breakthrough debut and some high-profile endorsements, JD McPherson is primed for stardom.

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