Rissi Palmer, “Flowers on My Window Ledge,” Rissi Palmer (2007)
Rissi Palmer hasn’t had a spectacular career; her most successful release to date was a country cover of the Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks duet “No Air.” The single reached number 47 on Billboard’s country charts, and was perfectly serviceable in terms of fitting its product description, but was nowhere near suffocating enough to be interesting. Indeed, Palmer was, sad to say, not a very interesting performer at all, or so her self-titled album would indicate. What attention she gained seemed to be the result of two things: the modest success she did achieve, and her race. (Let’s throw in a third: the race of almost every other country performer in the history of country music.)
Palmer was notable for being the first African American woman to see one of her songs reach the country music charts in twenty years, and its unfair to put the burden of expectation on her. I downloaded her record at the time because of the news angle, and found it to be a modest, not unappealing — but hardly exceptional — example of the form. No matter; there is no shortage of run-of-the-mill country records out there.
The stand out from the album is “Flowers on My Window Ledge,” a meditative yet buoyant break-up song that casts lost opportunity in botanical terms. Palmer and her ex- had plans to see the world, or, as she puts it: “the magnolias in Savannah, the sunflowers in Kansas … the wild roses in Nevada” and, getting more ambitious, “the roses bloom in London, the lilies bloom in Paris, the shamrocks up in Dublin…”
Strikingly for a singer whose slight career was almost entirely defined by her race, it’s a song that seems very gendered — or it does to my male ears, anyway. The idea of delineating the world in floral terms seems very feminine to me — and also, in lyrical terms, quite clever — and I always have to sort of allow some poetic license each time Palmer says her ex- promised they would go to whatever city to see whichever flower. Though, sure, there are undoubtedly straight dudes who would do that, but country is a genre more adept with familiar experiences than exceptional ones.
But this is a very nice song, and one able to express the immensity of optimism in the same breath as it does the smallness of sorrow. The only flowers Palmer can see in her future are those on her window ledge. Tomorrow sounds cramped and mundane.