By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — This has been another tremendous year for Black women country artists, and one of the highlights is Miko Marks’ “Our Country.” The album features a host of superbly sung, lyrically memorable works that are both purely country and reflective of a Black woman’s perspective and outlook that too often has been ignored or overlooked. Marks recently talked to the Tribune about not only “Our Country,” but life in the country world for Black women.
“We didn’t officially start working on “Our Country” until maybe late spring of 2020,” Marks said. “The idea came by way of a dream of playing with my old band mates, Justin Phipps and Steve Wyreman. I hit them up about just performing with no intentions of doing an album and Justin sent me a song he wrote , “Goodnight America”, so that’s how hit all started. We recorded “Our Country” at Redtone Records, located in East Palo Alto, CA. It was about 10 months before the record was finished.”
Marks isn’t someone who just got introduced to country recently, or began singing it late in her career. “I remember listening to country music at my grandmas,” she continued. “I was too young to tell you exactly who was playing, but I fell in love with the storytelling. I later learned that I was hooked on Patsy, Loretta and Dolly. We often watched “Hee Haw” and I would just get to hear all the guests that came on the show.”
Despite Nashville’s prominence in the country world, particularly in terms of songwriting and production, Marks is among a good number of country artists who have chosen not to live or record here. “I performed at AmericanaFest last week and got a chance to see a bit of the city, she said. “Nashville is a beautiful place and much has changed. I like the fact that I live in the Bay Area and can pop down to Nashville anytime.”
Marks is also realistic about the current state of country and Black women, despite some improvements. “There are still foundational changes that need to be implemented. It’s not enough to have POC/BIPOC sprinkled around the forefront of mainstream Country. Systems still need to be put in place on every level.”
It’s a sign of the excellent reviews “Our Country” has received that Miko Marks will be busy in the coming months despite the pandemic’s impact. “I am planning to go out with Paula Cole on Oct. 11 in Portland, OR and Tedeschi Trucks in Boston on December 2nd. Hopefully we can get a grip on Covid and begin to open up more in 2022. “Race Records” EP was released on October 1st. We wanted to create an EP that would honor and shine a light on a few of the pioneers in Country and American music.I love the connection I feel between genres when I listen to these artists. Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, Country, all of these styles were influencing each other early on, crossing racial and cultural divides the way music should. I plan on releasing a full length (album) in early 2022.”
Meanwhile, anyone who enjoys soulful, passionate and beautifully sung and written material should check out “Our Country.”