Hustling across dusty parking lots, a campsite filled with beer-drinking folks lounging in tents, and an expansive field to watch Rissi Palmer sing, this reviewer saw enough cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and women of various levels of physical fitness in bikini tops and micro-shorts to last a long lifetime.
The venue was the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, and the occasion was the second annual Stagecoach Festival, a three-day country music concert. Approximately 120,000 fans showed up over the weekend to hear artists like Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw, The Eagles, John Fogerty, Glenn Campbell, The Judds, "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, and Gretchen Wilson perform across three stages. Last month, Prince lit up the same desert with a rocking show that featured an inspiring cover of Radiohead's "Creep" at the alternative rock-oriented Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Performing on the Mustang Stage was the lovely Rissi Palmer, an up-and-coming guitar-playing country singer who made her first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry last summer. By the time I reached the stage, she was halfway through her 45-minute, 11-song set. But 20 minutes was more than enough time to form a favorable impression of the 26-year-old.
Inspired by artists like the late Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, and Prince, Palmer's style of country blends traditional and contemporary. Looking good (overall shorts, white tank top, high heel sandals, and bouncing and behaving hair) and sounding sweet, Palmer confidently strutted across the stage as she played songs mostly from her self-titled debut album, including signature song "Country Girl," "Mr. Ooh La La," "Anybody Out There," "Hold On To Me," and "Flowers on My Window Ledge." Watching her live brought a different level of excitement to her music and renewed appreciation for her strong voice. (Read the album review)
The mixed crowd of old and young couldn't help moving to the beat as Palmer, backed by a six-piece band of obviously admiring young men, played to the audience. She performed a few songs that aren't on her album, including a banjo-fiddle version of "No Air," a song recorded by "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown. I asked Palmer why she decided to record the song.
"Nathan Chapman [produced her version of "No Air"] and I heard Jordin's and Chris's version, loved it, and thought it might be interesting to create our own. It was really an experiment, and we're both extremely pleased with the outcome."
How have people reacted?
"My label and my manager heard it and loved it as well, and now it is my current single. So far the public and radio have responded pretty favorably," Palmer said.
Palmer's "No Air" will be available soon on iTunes, and you can listen to the full track on her MySpace page. She also performed "Piece of My Heart," a song Janis Joplin covered and turned into a hit back in 1968. With the audience singing along, Palmer was in her element. Clearly, she loves what she does.
Wrapping up the quick set with "Sweet Contradictions," Palmer thanked the audience, and graciously greeted fans and posed for photos before heading to an autograph signing session in another part of the festival. (I wasn't the only one moving fast at Stagecoach. In fact, everybody was moving fast at Stagecoach. The organizers made sure performers got off stages on time for the next performers.)
If you can, catch Rissi Palmer live. Her energy is infectious, and her voice is priceless. After the show, this reviewer's tag-along sister understated the obvious:
"She can really sing."Powered by Sidelines