ChickBall Performer: Rhonda Richmond & Laurel Isbister

The African proverb goes something like this:"If you want to know the end, look at the beginning." So, if you're going to talk about the music lineup at the 4th Annual Chickball, you're going to have to look at longtime blues artist and Jackson native Rhonda Richmond, who played the inaugural Chickball in 2004. Steeped in the blues, peppered with jazz and a healthy dose of R&B and even country, Richmond's music reveals a powerful spiritual component which illuminates the strong cultural ties between the Mississippi region and the West African nation of the Yoruba. Richmond's debut album, Oshogbo town, draws greatly from the West African and the Mississippi blues traditions.

Not at all a stranger to Chickball venue Hal and Mal's, Richmond has taken her show of blues and jazz (or as Richmond likes to call it, "blazz") to venues all across the city, from Huntington's Grille to the Birdland club on historical Farish Street. Her participation in the Chickball in the past has inspired to push further to expand her own personal awareness of the complex suffering endured by the victims of domestic violence, so much so that Richmond is joining Laurel Isbister in performing an original song written specifically for the cause. "We're trying to send a positive message to those who have experienced that kind of abuse," she says.

Visit Myspace.com/rhondarichmond for more info.

When she was 9 years old, Laurel Isbister won her first tape recorder in a poetry contest. As Laurel likes to put it, "that red hand-held Panasonic ignited a fire", and Laurels love of pushing record and play has continued to this day. In 2005 she released "Nona Mae's Wishes," a CD lauded for its interwoven themes of love and spirit, and for its excellent guitar work. Laurel grew up in North Carolina, and then spent the next 10 years traveling and living in various places Florida, France, Bulgaria, Los Angeles, Oakland. Along the way she studied music intensively, on her own and at three institutions: New College of Sarasota, the Academy of Arts and Dance in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and UCLA in Los Angeles . In 2003 Laurel decided returned to the South, choosing to live in Mississippi, where her maternal lineage goes back nine generations.

Laurels eclectic style reflects her years of adventures and study of music, spiritual philosophies and feminism. Some of her songs reveal a quiet, introspective grace along the lines of acoustic, inspirational music. Among her influences, she counts Ani Difranco, Neil Young and Aimee Mann.

Visit Myspace.com/laurelisbister for more info.


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