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Sep 23rd

Sorry Rissi-mania, but Lori Lynette Black and Liz Toussaint have got genuine talent

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Lori Lynette Black

Sorry "Rissi-mania", but Lori Lynette Black and Liz Toussaint have got genuine talent

Rissi Palmer this, Rissi Palmer that and Rissi Palmer the other thing. From here to there and back (Essence, Jet, Newsweek, VH1, you name it) Palmer has been touted as the first Black woman to hit Billboard's Hot Country chart since Dona Mason's "Green Eyes (Cryin' Those Blue Tears)" made it to no. 62 in 1987. Which, on the face of things, sounds like quite an accomplishment. However, bear in mind that the record charts - in all genres - have plenty of artists on them that are worth listening to.
Liz Toussaint

Rissi Palmer this, Rissi Palmer that and Rissi Palmer the other thing. From here to there and back (Essence, Jet, Newsweek, VH1, you name it) Palmer has been touted as the first Black woman to hit Billboard's Hot Country chart since Dona Mason's "Green Eyes (Cryin' Those Blue Tears)" made it to no. 62 in 1987. Which, on the face of things, sounds like quite an accomplishment.

However, bear in mind that the record charts - in all genres - have plenty of artists on them that are worth listening to. Also it's not an unheard of practice for under-the-table payments to secure a chart listing. Now, I am not - I repeat not - accusing Palmer or her representatives of greasing anyone with payola: the point is that the charts are no guaranteed indicator of quality.

Ultimately, it behooves one to keep his or her head on their shoulders before getting swept up by Rissi-mania, especially since there are artists in country music - including Black women - who sing and write rings around Rissi Palmer.

For instance, grab the kind of industry muscle Palmer has behind her and put it behind genuine talent like L.A.'s Lori Lynette Black or Chicago's Liz Toussaint and you'll find yourself asking, "Rissi who?" KOCH-distributed 1720 Entertainment hooked her up with name producers for her debut album, Rissi Palmer: Keith Thomas (Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood), Dan Shea (Martina McBride, Mariah Carey), Cory Rooney (Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Lopez) and Shannon Sanders (Randy Travis, Lyle Lovett, India Arie). These producer's names are bound to bring attention to a project, resulting in the sort of insider buzz that naturally gets the interest of national publications and radio stations. No matter how well you do or do not perform.

Take "Country Girl," the first single off the October-released Rissi Palmer. It's formulaic plastic-pop cornpone delivered with all the heart and soul of a department store mannequin. Laden with cliched "down-home" lyrics and perky, aw-shucks-I'm-just-folks warbling, the offering completely lacks something basic: true feeling - a staple by which country music was born and bred. On the other hand, Lori Lynette Black's easygoing essence is about a lot less sizzle and much more steak. Hers is a warm feel with a wry touch to it and fire fueled by a clear love of what she's doing. Highlights from the album Absence of Color give you, among other irresistible turns, "His Love's Not Real" and "One Last Kiss," showcasing Black's trademark sound - lucid and relaxed, real sweet singing. Liz Toussaint gets you with country grit made to move your hips, pulling you up off your rusty-dusty and onto the dance floor before you know what hit you. Actually, it's driven by R&B underpinnings that show you what The Dixie Chicks were aiming at. The title cut alone, "Country Soul," tells it all. Toussaint takes the genre to the last place anyone would expect it to wind up - kicking like a country mule, strutting like a Broadway hoochie-mama and belting like nobody's business, sweet and sassy as the day is long.

So you have an industry-generated event winning out over honed artistry. It might not be so bad if we could look forward to Rissi Palmer widening the way for others. Black, Toussaint, Miko Marks and others certainly ought to be able to benefit. But you know how white folk like to let one token in as a sign of just how open and fair-minded they are and then slam the door in everyone else's face. We'll just have to see how it goes. And in the meantime, sit still for all this hoopla over Rissi Palmer.

 

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