One evening a friend and I went to the Pour House in downtown Raleigh to listen to music. The brick alley way entry reminded me of clubs in New York and DC. We were pleasantly surprised to hear the level and quality of music from the first act jazz singer and pianist. Then there was a break. We read about the next act being a country singer. Not knowing what to expect and intrigued at the same time, we awaited our introduction to a new singer, a woman who had a voice, style, talent and unique sound, Rissi Palmer. It was a shock that Rissi was a local. She seemed too polished. This may have been about four years ago. Her claiming country music was unique for an African American woman. In that show we learned that Rissi had begun her career with a top ten chart for a country single and later left the Nashville scene to start a family. At the Pour House we learned shows relaunching her career.

Rissi is an instagram sensation. Here is where she successfully weaves her public persona as a musician with her private life. Rissi Palmer’s story is well documented on her website, and online including an interview on an NPR show which was a treat. At five years old under the influence of her mother she was exposed to American singer Patty Kline and R&B Soul. Her passions took her from high school straight into a music career. Her instrument of choice is the guitar which compliments her voice.

After that first performance, I have been tracking Rissi with my friend enjoying her unique style of music. Since then she has continued to reinvent herself as a ‘Southern Music Singer’ which continues to include Country. What I could discern from her first hit anyone could be country in the USA and I agree with that! It is fitting that her music genres at a 2017 Year’s Eve popular spot in downtown Raleigh expanded to include R&B and POP.

It could be difficult to get to know public figures like Rissi, who began her career on the road like Taylor Swift going from town to town to do radio interviews as part of the Country music scene.  Yet she is very open to meeting and connecting with her fans. I was fortunate when she, her husband and daughter visited my first art show in downtown Raleigh. You would think that was the time to take photos but not one, just talking and sharing. It was a fantastic moment. I could sense her openness for people, patience, humility and awareness. Perhaps these personality traits helped drum up her strong opinions on societal wrongs.

I’ve spent time while in New York going to jazz clubs around town. At  ‘Slugs’ in the east village, I heard all time greats like Pharoah Saunders, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, former members of John Coltrane’s band. I saw Carmen McCray in New York’s West Village, and Miles Davis and Arthur Prysock in Harlem. Midtown dinner clubs hosted Joe Williams, and Johnny Hartman. Great singers included a moment at Howard University in DC singing Christmas carols with the amazing voice of Donny Hathaway. Rissi is a special singer on the rise with a unique message. By musician standards she is still very young in her evolution. Her passion and voice extended to youth under the umbrella of her non-profit, WeAreSeeds.net, ‘focused on “raising happy, healthy, socially conscious, intellectual, and spiritually strong children in the ‘Post-Truth’ Resistance Era”’. This site and initiative is a reflective of her worldview!

Rissi Palmer’s new ‘Seed’ Album, inspired by the name of her non-profit, hits the market on October 15, 2018 according to her Instagram post. I also noticed she had been working on a socially conscious video. You may keep up with this unique song bird on Instagram, when lucky sometimes, even live around Raleigh!

Art and article by Lillian L. Thompson of Lillianonline.

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