Grammy Nominated Artists Mix Soul and Country at Suffolk Theater - 27 East

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Grammy Nominated Artists Mix Soul and Country at Suffolk Theater

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Leah Chiappino on Mar 18, 2023

Drawing from legends like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke, soul artist Brian Owens and country artist Rissi Palmer — two Grammy-nominated musicians — are coming to Suffolk Theater on March 24. The duo will present an evening of soul meets country with both solos and duets.

“It’s a mix of originals and cool covers that really take people on a journey of what we call the Americana soul kind of genre,” said Owens, who noted he fits more on the soul spectrum, while Palmer is a country artist.

“I call my music Southern soul because it is a mixture of country music, soul music and a little gospel sometimes,” added Palmer.

One duet Palmer and Owens will perform together is “Soul in My County,” which they wrote as a team. It appears on Owen’s album Soul of Cash, an R&B take on Johnny Cash.

“Musically speaking, it’s gonna be a lot of energy, and a lot of great storytelling, because that’s what those genres typically bring with them,” Owens said. “There will be enough music for people to kind of hang their hat on that they know. But I think the genre in and of itself, and the aesthetic in and of itself, is familiar to people.”

Owens has had successful duets with Michael McDonald, a five time Grammy winner, and his cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” has accumulated over 100 million views.

Palmer became the first African-American woman to hit the Billboard country charts since 1987, with her hit single, “Country Girl,” at No.57. Another of her songs, “Hold On to Me,” from the same album, came in just behind it, at No. 59. Palmer is currently host of Apple Music Country’s show “Color Me Country Radio with Rissi Palmer,” is a correspondent for CMT High 20 Countdown, and is the subject of an American Masters documentary on PBS, airing March 24, the same day as the show at Suffolk Theater.

Owens and Palmer met tin 2017 hrough mutual friends when she appeared on his Soul of Cash album, he said. Upon talking, they discovered their backgrounds intertwined, as they were both from the St. Louis, Missouri area.

“That kind of sealed the deal in terms of our working together, to know she’s a hometown girl,” Owens said.

For Palmer, the hometown bond is just as strong.

“I think we complement each other because we both grew up in church and so there’s a lot of that in our music and we’re friends and we’re both from St. Louis,” Palmer said. “And so I think our sound and our styles mesh very well together.”

Owens has known Suffolk Theater Executive Director Gary Hygom since Hygom ran the Patchogue Theater and booked him for a Marvin Gaye tribute in 2017. They worked together on several more shows, most recently, when Owens came to The Suffolk for a Juneteenth musical event last year.

“People out here don’t really know Brian, but as soon as you choose to hear the man, you can’t not just absolutely fall in love with his voice. He’s an incredibly charismatic performer,” said Hygom. “I think his fan base is going to grow and grow. Certainly everyone that was here for the Juneteenth event, as they left, was like ‘Oh my God please let me know when he’s coming back.’

“He is going to be the new voice of R&B and soul,” Hygom added. “His vocal quality completely encapsulates that genre. He just has a beautiful voice.”

After the Juneteenth event, Owens wanted to do a different type of performance at The Suffolk. He arranged to come and do this show with Rissi which is “more indicative of the direction I’m heading in as an artist, songwriter and as a creative,” said Owens.

That direction is full-on, American soul, said Owens.For those not familiar with the genre, he said it is best described by those who fit the niche, like Dolby Grey and, to some extent, Chris Stapleton.

“It sits in country, it also sits in the Americana, singer-songwriter, kind of great narrative and storytelling, but with a delivery that is very vocally reminiscent of some of the great soul singers,” Owens said. “So I would use those kinds of people’s archetypes for what the music really is indicative of.”

Owens said the energy, set up, and the audience are what stand out most out about his previous shows at Suffolk Theater, and he’s eager to return.

“I’m excited to come back to the Suffolk Theater, and bring some friends of mine that are super talented.” Owens said. “Especially Rissi Palmer, who has developed quite a profile in the area of country music.”

“Soul In My Country” with Brian Owens and Rissi Palmer takes place Friday, March 24, at 8 p.m. at Suffolk Theater. Tickets are $39 to $59 at Suffolk Theater is at 118 East Main Street, Riverhead.

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