Rissi Palmer kicked off the Black Music Matters Festival. COURTESY PHOTO
The standard time of the country welcomes the “Black Music Matters Festival» From August 2 to 6 on Facebook Live. The festival is a celebration of black artists in the country and Americana genres, musical categories that promote artists of color much less frequently than white artists.
Eight artists from across the country will perform new music and greatest hits during the five-day event. The festival is free, but spectators are encouraged to donate to the Equal Justice Initiative while enjoying the show. Among other projects, the Equal Justice Initiative provides research and recommendations to help advocates and policymakers develop criminal justice reform.
The festival kicked off on Sunday, August 2 with a moving performance from Rissi Palmer, a versatile North Carolina-based performer who seamlessly transitions from R&B to country beats.
“Overall, I think exposure and representation are two of the most important aspects of the festival,” says Palmer. “I was also drawn to the fact that I liked the charity aspect of the show. It was sort of obvious.
Palmer has performed music from her first two adult albums, which leaned more towards the country genre, as well as her latest album Revival, which debuted in October 2019 and incorporates more soul into the sound. It was also Palmer’s first experience producing his own album, giving him full artistic control over the sonic experience.
On Tuesday, August 4 at 8 p.m., Barrence Whitfield from Greater Boston will bring his signature sound to the Black Music Matters virtual stage. Whitfield also mixes country with other styles, including blues, soul and jazz, all genres with black roots. The story is important to Whitfield, and he says he hopes the concert will bring attention to the overlooked influence black artists have had in the country genre. He mentions artists like Stoney Edwards, DeFord Bailey and Charlie Pride, all talented and active country musicians who have been overlooked in the genre’s history.
“If it weren’t for gospel, blues, jazz…there wouldn’t be Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones,” says Whitfield. “Country music history goes deeper, especially when it comes to black artists.”
Although Festival performers lament that they won’t be able to reunite in person in Boston for the show, they hope it brings mental and emotional relief to viewers online, as well as a bit of education.
“I think a lot of people need to get away from it all right now. I know it is,” Palmer says. “Sometimes it’s nice to slip into a new album or a live performance and not think about certain things that are going on. And that’s a good time. You can listen to people for free and donate if you wish – you can’t lose.