Country Music Star Rissi Palmer Provides a Powerful Blues-Infused Playlist for Black History Month

By Gabrielle Pharms | February 15, 2022

In celebration of Black History Month, EDITION enlisted the aid of Black artists across all music genres to curate playlists comprised of songs that have connected with them the most. Each record they’ve chosen highlights fellow artists they’ve grown to appreciate over the years alongside their thoughts on the tunes' impact on their artistry and lives.

Next up, we have one of country music’s leading stars, Rissi Palmer. She debuted with "Country Girl" in 2007, making her the first Black female country singer to chart on Billboard since Dona Mason in 1987.

See more: Victoria Monét Helps Us Rediscover R&B Classics Through Curated Playlist

In 2020, Rissi launched her radio show Color Me Country to highlight artists of color who have been underrepresented in mainstream country music. In its second season, each episode gives listeners a deep and entertaining yet vital, open dialogue with both rising and established artists. You can tune into Color Me Country with Rissi Palmer every other Sunday on Apple Music Country at 7 pm ET.

Rissi will embark on her first tour of 2022, opening on select dates for Grammy-nominated blues artist Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, from March 1 through May 22. One of the stops where Rissi will perform includes the renowned Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

Listen to Palmer’s playlist below and read on for the inspiration behind each song she chose.

Linda Martell – “Bad Case of the Blues”

Linda and this song came into my life at a time when I was reflecting on my own place in this industry. I had heard her name and knew surface information about her, but when I heard her full story, I cried because I saw so much of myself in it. She felt like a kindred spirit, and it sent me on a journey of healing and discovery. Her story helped me change the trajectory of my life and career.

Ella Fitzgerald – “Misty”

When I was in college in Chicago, I started taking voice lessons with Ms. Betty Bell on the Southside of Chicago. I would take an hour-long train to work with her. She insisted that I listen to the classics while we worked together, so I dove headfirst into Ella Fitzgerald. The clarity and control in her voice, the subtle power in her delivery…it was transformative. Through Ms. Bell and Ella, I became a better singer and a lifelong fan of Ella.

Lizz Wright – “Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You”

Lizz is one of the artists that I’ve discovered as an adult that totally changed my perspective on genre. Her album, ‘Grace,’ straddled the lines of jazz, country, and gospel and sounded like the musical sweet spot to me. My next album, ‘Revival,’ was heavily influenced by this album.

Prince – “Cream”

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting and working with Prince from 2004 to 2005. He was someone I idolized as a child, so to have him act as a mentor for me at the beginning stages of my career meant the world to me. He gave me so many pieces of great advice, one being to maintain the ownership of my art at all costs.

Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car”

As a child, I had only seen white men playing guitar and singing. Tracy Chapman was the first Black woman I had seen singing folk music and playing guitar. I can remember stealing my dad’s cassette tape of her first album and playing this song over and over. She expanded my horizons. She and Phoebe Snow are the reason I picked up a guitar.

Whitney Houston – “I Have Nothing”

I don’t know any singer who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s who wasn’t influenced by Whitney Houston. She was the epitome of style, grace, and Black beauty. I wanted to sound like her, look like her…be her. I had all of her albums, but ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack was on constant rotation in my Walkman. I studied this song like it was my homework.

Aretha Franklin – “Ain’t No Way”

When I was 16, I bought an Aretha Franklin greatest hits collection. “Ain’t No Way” stayed on repeat. The pain was palpable in her voice. Every line dripped with emotion, and I wanted to catch every bit of it. There’s a reason she’s the Queen of Soul…

Mariah Carey – “Underneath The Stars”

Mariah is another artist who has left an indelible mark on all of us singers coming up in the ‘90s. I was one of those kids who read liner notes because I wanted to know everything I could about the songs that I loved. When I realized that she was not only singing but also WRITING the songs, I was hooked. I am a Lamb for life…

Tina Turner – “ What’s Love Got to Do with It”

I can remember being three years old and seeing the video for this song and being entranced…WHO WAS THIS WOMAN?!?!? She was confident, gorgeous, flirty, and stylish. Her voice had so much character. She was amazing. This was, of course, before I knew everything she had to go through to become that woman I was watching on the screen. In fact, I have a copy of her country/Americana album, ‘Tina Turns the Country On,’ sitting on my desk every day for inspiration.

Rissi Palmer – “Seeds”

This song marked a change in my voice as an artist. Before 2014, I primarily wrote about love and things like that. My music nor my brand had a particular political slant. That changed the day that I watched Michael Brown’s lifeless young body lying in the street on TV. I watched the subsequent uprisings in Ferguson and was inspired to write this song. I wanted to say something meaningful and uplifting. I didn’t care if people were turned off by it; making the statement meant more to me than their approval. The day I released that song, I grew up as an artist…