"Live at the Castle Theatre" is Denise La Grassa’s latest album to showcase her immense power and feeling, and sophisticated yet melodic songwriting. "Sunshine in the Toxic Ballroom" and "Pieces of Peace" from “Live” are hints of what's to come on the bluesy LP "The Flame," scheduled for an early 2022 release. New City Magazine (Chicago) Music Editor Robert Rodi recently notes, “ … she’s also sufficiently a woman of her time to pull in influences as diverse as funk and folk. And her compelling contralto owes more to Grace Slick than Sarah Vaughan.”
Denise’s evolution to blues began with 2015's slow-burning "The Blues Ain't a Color," the soundtrack to her one-woman show of the same name. It played to diverse audiences at various Chicago venues, including a summer run at the revered Theatre Wit. The album delivered torching ballads including the stunning “One More Tear” and the gospel/blues inflected “Davina’s Song.”
Her 2009 album "April Dreams" received critical praise from numerous outlets, including Jim DeRogatis of NPR's Sound Opinions, who heard “ … an impressive but never showy range and a self-assured, conversational delivery that brings to mind a jazzier Aimee Mann.”
Denise’s progression into blues and roots music is grounded in her early love of soul and R&B, with Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, and Al Green particular favorites. Astute ears will hear Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughan also found their way into her songwriting and performance, making her music difficult to put into a single box.
Denise’s songwriting began at age six when she took a fistful of freshly written songs to the front steps of her suburban Chicago neighbors and serenaded them with her morning’s work. Hoping to make enough money to buy Christmas presents for her family, she persevered until Mom caught wind of the young entrepreneur’s exploits. But confidence was gained.
That spirit blossomed when she discovered The Second City in Chicago on break one summer from college. "I couldn't believe what I found. A school for people like me! I left college and soaked up improv writing and acting. Within a year I was traveling with The Second City Touring Company and having the time of my life.” One of her favorite bits was inventing songs on the spot from audience shouted ideas.
Denise has also written and produced numerous musical one-woman shows and landed small parts in a couple of made for HBO movies, including Hometown Boy Makes Good with Anthony Edwards (she's the funny secretary). You can still catch her portrayals of real-life people on the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries.”