Leela and Ellie Grace

Leela and Ellie Grace


Being raised by professional musicians on equal parts hippie rock & roll and old-time music could leave a pair of sisters mightily confused...or it could make them one of the more unique and beautiful forces in folk music today. We’re relatively confident that Leela and Ellie Grace chose option 2.


How do you describe Leela and Ellie Grace?

Well, if the Indigo Girls and the Louvin Brothers had somehow brought two little girls into this world and raised them as part of a family band, they just might have grown up to sound like Leela and Ellie Grace. While we do not think this love match would have been much of a success, such a musical union is a beautiful thing in the skilled hands and sparkling voices of the Grace Sisters. Having spent a lifetime steeped in diverse musical traditions, they have created a soaring sound and bright presence all their own.

But that still doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. Imagine two little tow-headed hippie girls who, late one evening, beg not to be sent to bed. They are drawn instead to the circle of friends singing and playing songs new and old in the living room of the small farmhouse at the end of the gravel road. Finally, they drift off to sleep on a blanket in the midst of the circle, only content when the music surrounds them. 20 years later, those little sisters have grown into powerful musicians, writers, and performers. Their voices reach far beyond that small circle (and their hair may be a bit darker), but when they step onstage their roots still show.

Leela Grace and Ellie Grace are singers, multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and percussive dancers who grew up traveling across North America performing with their parents Paul & Win Grace as The Grace Family. For the past 10 years, they have been making a name for themselves around the country as a duo, in addition to offering solo appearances, and touring with nationally-known bands such as the Dirk Powell Band. Leela and Ellie have been acclaimed by audiences and fellow musicians alike for their powerful voices, close sisterly harmonies, warm stage presence, and driving old-time instrumentals.

Leela and Ellie's music has a strong grounding in traditional American and Old-time string band styles, but crosses over into the contemporary folk realm, including their own compelling original songs. They recorded three albums with the Grace Family (in addition to doing studio work with other musicians) and are in the process of recording their second duo CD. The sisters have performed at prestigious venues across the United States and Canada, ranging from the Winnipeg Folk Festival to the Lincoln Center in New York City to the Summer Solstice Festival in Los Angeles.

In 2003, they released their debut duo CD, which was critically acclaimed by folk critics and fans and received widespread radio play on folk radio stations across the country. In his review of the CD in Sing Out! magazine, Rich Warren said, "Leela and Ellie Grace soar off this disc like a breath of fresh air in the smoky atmosphere of singer-songwriters . . . If you’re hesitant to take a chance on new artists, rest assured this CD will leave you in a state of grace."

2006 saw Ellie relocating to the musical mecca of Asheville, North Carolina and touring with the Dirk Powell Band. Late 2007 has seen the release of a highly anticipated new CD from Leela and Ellie and a move to the other coast by the older sister! Leela and Ellie will spend 2008 meeting in Portland, Oregon; Asheville, North Carolina; their hometown of Columbia, Missouri; and everywhere in between to make beautiful music together in support of their new CD!

Many things have been said of Leela and Ellie, including the following:
"Leela's and Ellie's singing is clear, pitch-perfect, and expressive. 'Soaring' is a word that comes to mind.” -- The Old Time Herald

“Their sterling credentials in old-time music, stunning vocal harmonies, instrumental expertise on banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle, and clogging that is unmatched make them a hit wherever they play!” -- Fox Valley Folk Music Festival, Chicago, IL

In lieu of all of that verbiage, however, you could just follow this simple recipe:

Recipe for Leela and Ellie Grace

2 cups of spine-tingling, sister harmonies
1 cup of sweet songwriting
½ cup of groovin’ old-time instruments
¼ cup of rockin’, high energy
2 tablespoons of quirky humor
1 teaspoon of percussive dance
A dash of Midwestern charm
Heart to taste

Mix it all together and bake for twenty-something years. Serve fresh and warm at your favorite venue.



Wrap Myself In You

Written By: Leela Grace

Tonight I feel so cold
I wanna feel the heat
Of the flame that rises
When you think you’re all burned out
Tonight I feel so old
I wanna taste the sweet
Of the kiss that surprises
When you’ve forgotten what it’s all about

[chorus] I throw my dreams out loud to the stormy blue
Let it rain and bring down something new
I’ll wrap myself in you

In the house of my first dreams
I listen for the sound
Of the song so sweet and certain
That I’m sure I one time knew
But it is not all what it seems
Forever turning ‘round
I will draw back the curtain
And give myself to you

Sometimes it hurts too much
To love like this
The storm blows full of worry
And I think I cannot stand
But come the softest touch
And the gentle kiss
And we roll like the Missouri
Stronger hand in hand

Leela Grace: lead vocal, guitar
Ellie Grace: harmony vocals, mandolin
Kevin Hennessy: electric bass
Jake Hanselman: drums

(© 2007 Leela Grace, BMI)

Until a Drop Becomes a Flood

Written By: Ellie Grace and Leela Grace

Sing me a song of American dreams and I'll sing you a song of fear
Send me your weak and your poor and your tired and we'll kick 'em out of here
We've got no room for your huddled masses, we've got no help for you
Unless you've got money or god on your side, we will not see you through

Lady, lady with your torch held high, your flame is burning low
You said you'd harbor us safe in your arms, oh why did you let us go?
They've taken your name and left a hollow frame where liberty once stood
They say it's every man for himself now, to hell with the common good

[chorus] America the beautiful, America the strong
We are the dispossessed, the long oppressed
Why do you do us wrong?
America, the land of the free, you've forgotten we're your blood
But we will join together one by one until a drop becomes a flood

Who’s gonna save you now, I ask, from the shame of all your lies?
You say you speak the word of god, but it’s just hatred in disguise
We used to be a beacon of hope shining across the sea
But we shed the blood of the innocent now in the name of democracy

A nation so young, you’ve forgotten it seems you were forged in rebellion’s flame
Now we’re told to say yes, turn away, and sit down, that we all must think the same
But we will raise our voices one by one and sing out loud and clear
We are the people, we will speak our minds and we won’t be bought by fear

[chorus] America the beautiful, do you hear our song?
We are the dispossessed, the long oppressed
Why do you do us wrong?
America, the land of the free, you've forgotten we're your blood
But we'll join together one by one until a drop becomes a flood

Ellie Grace: lead vocal, mandolin
Leela Grace: harmony vocals, guitar
Kevin Hennessy: electric bass
Jake Hanselman: drums, tambourine
Pete Szkolka: Hammond organ

(© 2005 Leela Grace, BMI and Ellie Grace, BMI )

Morning Grace

Written By: Leela Grace

I feel your breath upon my skin
As the morning light finds your face
Love blows ‘round us like a sacred wind
And I say a little morning grace

[chorus] Tears like a blessing, love like the light
I touch you like a prayer every single night
I don’t know who to thank every single day
I sing a little song, say a little grace
Thank you to the breathing
Thank you to the sun
To the moon and the morning
Every song ever sung
To the sky and the ground
The goddess in the trees
The angels and the afternoon
That carried you to me

Your smile makes me want to sing
As you lead me barefoot to the door
You show me all the fragile flowers of spring
That have never dared to blossom before

The night wind blows so silent and so sweet
And you gather me gently in your arms
I hold you in reverence as you sleep
And I whisper my thank-yous to the stars
I whisper my thank-yous to the stars

That winter afternoon
That carried you to me

Leela Grace: lead vocal, guitar
Ellie Grace: harmony vocal
Kevin Hennessy: electric bass
Jake Hanselman: drums

(© 2004 Leela Grace, BMI)

Red Rocking Chair

Written By: Traditional

Ain’t got no use
Ain’t got no use for the red rocking chair
Got no sugar honey baby now
Got no sugar honey baby now

Who’ll rock the cradle
Who’ll rock the cradle and who’ll sing your song
Who’ll rock the cradle when you’re gone
Who’ll rock the cradle when you’re gone

I’ll rock the cradle
I’ll rock the cradle and I’ll sing your song
I’ll rock the cradle when you’re gone
I’ll rock the cradle when you’re gone

All I can do
All I can do and it’s all I can say
Bring you to your mama next payday
Bring you to your mama next payday

Ain’t got no use
Ain’t got no use for the red apple juice
Got no sugar honey baby now
Got no sugar honey baby now

Ellie Grace: lead vocal, mandolin, guitar
Leela Grace: harmony vocal, banjo

Common Ground

Written By: Ellie Grace

[chorus] This is the deepest well
That I have ever known
It is the greatest strength
My rock, my solid stone
This is the sweetest home
My heart has ever found
And always you and I
Well we are brought back around
To this place of greatest love
To this love, our common ground

The storm rages on
And the night tosses and turns
But the more the rains fall down
The more this fire burns
For when I hold tight to you
The dark gives way to the dawn
And in the face of such love
The storm it just passes on

You reach out and take my hand
As we drive into the coming day
And through the sky ahead
A star falls to burn the night away
And I believe it fell for you and me
Saying why don’t you let go of your fear
Can’t you see by the light in the east
All the love that you need is right here

And so we’ll travel on
Down this road, not knowing where it ends
And we may get lost in the doubt
As the road it twists and it bends
But I will try to hold on to you
And if we’re lost, well we can circle back around
To the well, to the strength, to the home
To the love and to our common ground

Ellie Grace: lead vocal, mandolin
Leela Grace: harmony vocals, banjo
Kevin Hennessy: electric bass
Jake Hanselman: drums
Pete Szkolka: electric guitar

(© 2004 Ellie Grace, BMI)

This Is My Family

Written By: Leela Grace

This is my family
All families are not the same
They’re not just what you see within the picture frame
It is the day to day
It is the way we feel
It is the words we say that make something real

[chorus] This is my family
We live within these walls
They do not look like me but I don’t care at all
And this is my lover’s loom
Where she weaves the love
That fills up all the rooms and covers all of us

This is my family
It does not look like yours
But we’re not the enemy
Why do you wage these wars?
For we are bound by soul
And we live by heart
Now why is it your goal to tear us apart?

The laws don’t make our ties
It’s not by blood we’re bound
But it’s in love we rise
This is the home we’ve found

Leela Grace: lead vocal, guitar
Ellie Grace: harmony vocal, mandolin
Kevin Hennessy: upright bass
Jake Hanselman: drums

(© 2004 Leela Grace, BMI)


2008: Leela and Ellie Grace/ Where the Waters Run

2003: Leela and Ellie Grace/ Self-Titled Debut Duo Release

1996: Paul and Win Grace and Family/ Dance Upon the Earth

1993: Paul and Win Grace and Family/ In Dreams I Hear the Music

1990: Paul and Win Grace and Family/ Carved Out of Time

Set List

We tailor our sets carefully to the venue and audience. Our performances generally include a portion of originals, several traditional tunes and songs, a number of covers by contemporary folk songwriters (such as Tim O'Brien, Dar Williams, Pat Humphries, and Carla Sciaky), and a touch of high-energy percussive dance. For an evening concert, we will normally do a 50-minute set, followed by a 40-minute set.