Singled Out: Denise La Grassa's Sundown Rising

Keavin Wiggins | 07-02-2024 10:57 AM EDT

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Singled Out: Denise La Grassa's Sundown Rising

Rootsy blues star Denise La Grassa just released her new album "Sundown Rising", and to celebrate we asked her to tell us about the title track of the new record. Here is the story:

Chicago guitarist John Kregor and I have co-written many songs over the past couple decades, including some on my albums April Dreams and The Blues Ain't a Color, as well as other singles.

On the new album Sundown Rising, we collaborated on five songs, including the title track. On Sundown Rising, I started by singing lyrics & playing a minor blues progression. John took that and followed with the hippest guitar riff, then added layers of counter riffs creating a wall of sound. John re-arranged chord voicings while adding a chromatic chord structure to the melody where the chorus sits on these lyrics: "Gonna get a good life/Rising from battle grave sides/Sundown/Rising Up anew."

For the studio recording, we wanted the walls of sound John created to come from the harp - and we immediately thought the creative passion of Mississippi Heat's Pierre Lacocque would bring the power, drive, and feeling John and I were looking for. He guested on my last album The Flame, and we were right. The feeling was like another powerful voice speaking in the song.

My lyrics in this song are more abstract, not a linear story, about feelings/thoughts I had reflecting on historical sundown towns, where African American residents were forbidden from being within the city limits at night. Back then if you were travelling or just passing through a sundown town by car, bus or rail terminals, warning signs were posted letting black folks know "stay out" after dark. It was fine to pass through during the day, especially if you were there for work. I was recalling some of those towns in central and southern Illinois on MLK weekend. One even not far from me now in Cicero Illinois. In Cicero back in 1951, African American residents living in apartment building were driven out by force. Sundown Rising is a theme, poetic symbol paying homage to those who perished on roadsides rising from those invisible graves, a song reminder of the countless challenges African Americans have worked to overcome. That's why you see me holding up the sign "Sundown Rising" on the cover of the album.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself below and learn more about the album here

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Singled Out: Denise La Grassa's Sundown Rising

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