Have you ever heard of Alice Randall? No? How about this instead, do you know Trisha Yearwood’s hit song, “XXX’s and OOO’s”? This number one single was co-written by Randall, the first African-American woman to co-write a number-one country hit. She has had over 20 of her songs recorded and she boasts numerous top 10’s. Randall currently resides in Nashville and is a writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University and teaches numerous courses including a seminar on the country music lyric in American literature.
Perhaps you have heard of Mickey Guyton. 36-year-old, Guyton, is the only Black-female country artist signed to a label. Her recent anthem, “Black Like Me” is finding its place amidst the growing movement for racial justice. Guyton told People Magazine, “As long as I can spark conversation that’s really all that matters.” Having released this song prior to the chain of devastating racial violence, she was afraid the song would be too provocative for country music fans. She said, “there’s no way they’re ever going to let me play this.” After the death of George Floyd, Guyton tweeted the lyrics to her song, “Now I'm all grown up and nothing has changed / Yeah, it's still the same / It's a hard life on easy street / Just white-painted picket fences far as you can see / If you think we live in the land of the free / you should try to be black like me." Within days, the song rose to the top of Spotify’s charts and has been featured on other playlists curated by Apple Music, YouTube, and Amazon.
Ashlie Amber is a woman of many talents. She just released her very first single, “Almost Love”, and is currently collaborating with Grammy and Emmy award winner, Jamie Tate, to create a country album. However, she also performed a residency while cruising on international waters aboard The Celebrity Edge, a $1.2 billion cruise ship. To top it off, Amber recently became a part of the esteemed Actors’ Equity Association and has performed all over the world from the past decade while being nominated for multiple Henry Awards and playing leading roles in broadway musicals.
Rissi Palmer is a Black country music artist who debuted in 2007 with the single, “Country Girl.” This single made her the first African-American woman to chart a country song since Dona Mason in 1987. She released her full length album, Revival, in 2019. The second release off this album, “Soul Message” was featured in Rolling Stone Country’s “10 Best Songs of the Week.”
Not only is country music male-dominated, it is also white-male dominated. Many chalk up the lack of Black country music singers to poor participation. However, this is clearly not the case. It is not solely up to successful Black country musicians such as Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, and Kane Brown to be paving the way for increased diversity in country music. Of the 139 inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame, there are less than 5 people of color. Country radio, award shows, journalists, and every type of media outlet needs to be an ally in promoting diversity in country music. Now is the time to hold ourselves accountable and to create a large scale change. You can be part of the change by supporting these artists mentioned, and by not shying away when the conversation becomes uncomfortable.
For more, please listen to our Voices of Color Spotify playlist here.