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Backstage with Elias: Grace Lougen 

A few years back, I was running the live entertainment for a local music club when the Grace Stumberg Band (GSB) popped up on the schedule. Grace Stumberg (Grace S.) was the lead vocalist, and already paving her own trails at that point. In the group was a young Josh English on drums, Michael Petrino on bass, and an even younger Grace Lougen (Grace L.) on lead guitar. All are terrific players, but there was something a bit different about Grace Lougen. That always stuck with me.

Fast forward to today, we find ‘The Two Graces’ on tour with the venerable Joan Baez, currently on a 2 week stay in Paris, France. I had the opportunity to chat with Grace before she departed for this European tour.

Photo from the Colorline Blues Cruise: Aigars Lapsa

“Dad is a guitar player, so there was always a guitar around,” Grace said.

The 23 year old Kenmore, NY native started performing at church, and would eventually start taking lessons at 14. She would also earn an associate’s degree in music from NCCC.

“I’ve always liked rock music. My dad would always listen to the radio,” she told me.

Photo with Dave Constantino at Larkin Stage: Jack Zuff

She mentioned the musical influences from that listening environment, such as Led Zeppelin. “U2 is the first band I liked myself, then I started listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan… that’s where it really started to change. I then went to learn all the licks.” That same sort of discovery process opened the door for artists such as BB King, Buddy Guy, Allman Brothers, and Derek Trucks. She soon found her signature style.

After that first show we did a number of years back, I realized that she jammed with a Derek Trucks fingerpicking style. That’s what was different. That caught my attention then, and wow can she ever rip it up with the best of them today.

Grace L’s blues style has brought her beyond the GSB, and to several working blues groups, including Big Martha, an Allman Brothers tribute group, Flying Blind Blues Band, Black and Blues Band, and most notably, Freightrain with bassist Robert ‘Freightrain’ Parker. They have recorded, performed locally and even did a tour in Norway.

Now, she is on the road with “the Baez tour” – it’s her 3rd time hitting the road with Baez, as her guitar tech and assistant – the same role Grace Stumberg had before moving up to performer alongside the acclaimed American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist.

Speaking of “The Two Graces”, they will be performing in Paris at Le Pop In during their stay. Follow them on social media for details on that performance.

Grace Lougen is a remarkable talent, and given her age, it won’t be long before someone scoops her up and takes her out on the road long term. She is that good, as we will all soon find out.

Lead image by Michael Mietlicki 

Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

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