Bluesy - Rootsy - Soulful - Rock”

With Denise La Grassa's releases of her 9-song album “Sundown Rising,” it’s easy to look back now on how poem-songs she wrote as a wee child foreshadowed a late-blooming full-time blues music career. Those songs were just a warm-up for the spunky 5-year-old, who went door-to-door in her suburban Chicago neighborhood offering to sing and sell them to neighbors – right on their doorstep - for 25 cents apiece. Artist? Check. Entrepreneur? Check.

Fast forward to the small Wisconsin town of Baraboo, the audacious now 8th grader accepted a challenge from the town’s legendary Circus World Museum to break the world record for muscle grinds on a trapeze. She succeeded, securing for a brief time an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Denise later landed in Chicago and stumbled upon the comedy and improv enterprise The Second City. She quickly worked her way into the touring company, traveling the country performing improv and her favorite segment "Make a Song," where she would make up a song on the spot from audience suggestions.  She eventually returned to the Windy City and embedded herself in the city’s vibrant music scene, performing in Chicago's storied music haunts. 

A few decades on, Denise La Grassa is just as creative and audacious. A 2022 pivot she christened her ‘North of 40’ journey was an internal challenge, as in, ‘can a woman … say north of 40 … follow her dream of returning to Europe to perform with her new band and new, bluesy sound?’ Her opening salvo was the 2023 rockin’ blues album “The Flame”, which garnered nationwide airplay and a Top-25 spot on the Roots Music Report Contemporary Blues chart, with the song Better Day’s Coming soaring into the Top-10 singles chart.

“Sundown Rising” moves La Grassa further into what she calls “my take on the blues.”  The title is a nod to historical ‘sundown towns.’ Though no longer officially ‘a thing,’ she argues that the poor and marginalized, disproportionally people of color, are still cast aside in a country of abundance. She also takes a sassy swipe at social media on “None of Your Business,” at politicians on “Good Rule Makers,” and at nitpickers in a world of normalized mass shootings on “Quit Your Whining.”

But mostly “Sundown Rising” preaches that love transcends all. One highlight, the gospel-tinged “Hope in Love,” reminds us that love ‘Is what we live for/Is what we die for/Is what we give for.’ The driving, rhythmic blues cut “Loving for Love’s Sake” argues that love is a core value, ‘If you’re living in hell hate/You’re not loving for loves sake.’ And the gorgeous ballad “The Door” offers hope with ‘Get out and go wipe off the tears/The clock is ticking fast In years/The door is open today it’s time/Listen hard and keep on dreaming.’