Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Lazy Grass String Band from Toulouse

Hailing from the South of France, specifically the city of Toulouse, Lazy Grass String Band aren’t at all the lethargic ensemble their name might imply. The five piece band — which consists of Babou Desmidt on double bass and backing vocals, Laura Petit Félix, who plays mandolin and sings lead vocal, Damien Mélich on guitar and backing vocals, Victor Elkaim on dobro and backing vocals, and Vincent Chaine on banjo — draw their sound from a wide variety of select sources. 

To quote from their bio, “Lazy Grass String Band is the result of a unique acoustic experience: what happens when five young musicians, with various influences, decide to abandon the amps and get together to live their passion for bluegrass? Three years later, the result is an album, a video clip, several live sessions, about fifty concerts, thousands of smiles and a ‘singular and festive’ group delivering music with ‘contagious energy’…

“Lazy Grass String Band takes its name from one of those major influences: the bluegrass, acoustic music from the Appalachians born in the 1930s from the mixing of different musical traditions immigrants on American soil. It’s around the stringed instruments that the Lazy Grass String Band is organized. Representatives of the new generation of a festive and virtuoso style, too rarely exhibited on stages in France, the members of Lazy Grass String Band want to sow the seeds of a revival of tricolor bluegrass.”

Well said!

“We have a lot of influences in the band,” Chaine says. “Our bluegrass influences include Béla Fleck, Billy Strings, Blue Highway, Punch Brothers, Sierra Hull, J.D. Crow, and Del McCoury. We also share other influences as well, such as psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s — specifically the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa, the psycho-billy sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat, the pop songs of Alicia Keys, and French music like Georges Brassens and Jaques Brel.”

Chaine notes that the band has performed throughout France, including such notable festivals as Mediterraneo and La Halle de la Machine. In addition, they have their sights set on a few other major gatherings as well, including Eurockeennes and les Vieilles Charrues. That’s in addition bigger ambitions. “We would like to perform all over the world,” Chaine said with a chuckle. “And of course in the US.”

For the moment anyway, they seem to be making their mark with folks at home. “Typically, our music transports those who listen to it,” Chaine maintains. “Bluegrass is a relatively unknown genre in France, and when we play it, people tend to enjoy the novelty of it. Our music allows them to both discover this style and listen to it in a French setting, which is uncommon. Overall, our music is very well-received.”

So far, the band has released one album, but they’re preparing to record a follow-up soon. “Our albums consist entirely of original compositions,” Chaine explains. “However when we play live, we also perform traditional songs like New Camptown Races, Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee, and some fun covers like Baby One More Time by Britney Spears, for example.”

While the band’s sound can occasionally drift beyond its bluegrass borders, Chaine offers his own reasons why bluegrass enjoys such international popularity. 

“The popularity of this music has been greatly boosted by films like O Brother Where Art Thou, and The Broken Circle Breakdown (A.K.A. Alabama Monroe), as well as artists such as Billy Strings, Béla Fleck, and Punch Brothers, who have brought it to a wider audience through their contributions to pop culture,” he suggests. “The new generation of musicians is also helping to raise its profile by incorporating diverse influences, from classical music to the Grateful Dead. That probably speaks to the culture and the people it attracts.”

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.