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Milwaukee’s SistaStrings shine on Alice Randall’s ‘My Black Country’

todayApril 12, 2024

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Milwaukee’s SistaStrings releases new song on Alice Randall’s ‘My Black Country”
SistaStrings, photo credit: Hanna Hanseroth

In country music, where Black voices have long been underrepresented, songwriter Alice Randall’s latest project, “My Black Country – The Songs of Alice Randall,” is a beacon of change. The album, released alongside Randall’s memoir of the same name, celebrates the Black roots and ongoing influence in the genre while showcasing the immense talent of contemporary Black female artists. Among the standout tracks is “Girls Ride Horses,” performed by the Milwaukee natives SistaStrings. SistaStrings, comprised of sisters Monique and Chauntee Ross, has been making waves in the music industry with their captivating performances and collaborations with renowned artists such as Brandi Carlile and Allison Russell. 

“Girls Ride Horses,” written by Alice Randall herself, is a powerful affirmation of women’s empowerment and the breaking of gender stereotypes. The song’s title and theme challenge traditional notions of masculinity in country music, asserting that girls, too, can engage in activities like horseback riding. SistaStrings‘ heartfelt duet with Randall brings the message to life, their voices intertwining in a beautiful harmony that resonates with listeners.

In Randall’s memoir, she expresses her gratitude to the thirty-year-old sisters from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who go by the name of SistaStrings. She writes, “Their performance of ‘Girls Ride Horses, Too’ as a duet with the sisters trading verses has roots and wings. The roots are the sister harmonies most evident on the chorus; the wings are the verses with each sister giving the narrative a distinctly different interpretation and spin.” Monique and Chauntee Ross were born roughly around the time “Girls Ride Horses, Too” was written and recorded.

The song’s presence on “My Black Country” is a testament to Randall’s mission to reclaim Black narratives in the genre. Despite making history in 1994 as the first Black woman to write a #1 country hit with “XXX’s & OOO’s (An American Girl),” recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Randall’s songs have consistently been performed by white artists. This has led to the assumption that the characters in her songs are white, erasing the Black experiences she sought to portray. With “My Black Country,” Randall aims to rescue her Black characters and give a platform to the often-overlooked Black female artists in country music.

The album features an impressive roster of singers, including Adia Victoria, Rissi Palmer, Allison Russell, and Rhiannon Giddens, who bring Randall’s songs to life. By celebrating Randall’s songwriting and the performances of these talented Black female singers, “My Black Country” extends the conversation about the boundaries and essence of American country music.

SistaStrings’ journey to this unique project is a story of dedication and perseverance. The Ross sisters began playing instruments before age five and formed SistaStrings in 2014. They quickly became one of the most popular acts in the Milwaukee music scene, collaborating with various local artists. Their move to Nashville in 2020 marked a turning point in their career, leading to collaborations with Brandi Carlile and Allison Russell and a memorable performance alongside Joni Mitchell at the 66th annual Grammy Awards in February 2024.

The inclusion of “Girls Ride Horses” on “My Black Country” showcases SistaStrings’ talent and highlights the importance of Alice Randall’s work in reclaiming the Black roots of country music. Randall’s accompanying memoir is a deeply personal account of her four-decade journey in the country music industry. Drawing inspiration from pioneering Black country artists like DeFord Bailey, Lil Hardin, Ray Charles, Charley Pride, and Herb Jeffries, Randall finds solace in their history and aims to celebrate their contributions.

As Nashville has yet to fully acknowledge most Black artists’ contributions to country music, Alice Randall’s “My Black Country” is vital to greater recognition and representation. Through her memoir and album, Randall paints a fuller picture of country music’s history and future, ensuring that the stories and talents of Black artists are celebrated and remembered.

This conversation about representation and diversity in country music has been further amplified by Beyoncé’s  album “Cowboy Carter.”  As a Black woman from Texas, Beyoncé is claiming her rightful place in the genre and paving the way for greater representation and recognition of Black artists in country music

Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” and Alice Randall’s “My Black Country” are significant testaments to the influence and importance of Black women in country music. As these projects continue to generate discussions and encourage change, they serve as a reminder that the future of country music acknowledges and appreciates the genre’s diverse roots and the talent of Black artists.


Written by: Tarik Moody

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