Blues Bytes


June 2020

Avey Grouws BAnd
The Devil May Care


Avey Grouws BandAvey Grouws Band was a new name to me, although anyone attending recent International Blues Challenge competitions in Memphis has probably already seen this band from the Quad Cities part of Iowa . They've been together for just three years, a band on the rise as evidenced by their recent self-released debut album, The Devil May Care. For a relatively-unknown group outside of their home base, they're better than they have any right to be. Yeah, I'm serious, like really impressive. All ten cuts on The Devil May Care are originals from singer Jeni Grouws and guitarist Chris Avey and they're not putting out just a one-dimensional sound, featuring a lot of different styles of blues here.

Just so you know who's who with this band, Ms. Grouws handles the vocals with a voice that has both range and power, and that's well-suited for the material here. Avey is a strong guitarist and also helps out on vocals at times. The rest of the band is solid, with Bryan West on drums, Randy Leasman on bass and Nick Vasquez on keyboards.

The Devil May Care gets off to a good start with a Latin-ish swing beat leading into "Come And Get This Love," on which our singer, Ms Grouws, is trying to lure that man with her feminine wiles. Grouws vocals are strong and there's a nice organ solo from Vasquez. Grouws then injects a heaping dose of feistiness into her voice on the title cut as she sings about a love affair that should bother her conscience more than it does. It's some of her best vocal work on the album, while Avey comes in with good, stinging guitar licks.

"Rise Up" may be the most important cut on the album, extremely prescient based on the current situation all through the country. Grouws booms out, "...We've got to come together if we're going to make things right..." and "...turn your anger into actions..." Wow!

"Let's Take It Slow" changes the mood completely, a love song that has the couple planning their evening together, saying, "...Baby, we've got the night, so let's take it slow..." What stands out on this number is Avey's intricate guitar break, turning it into an old Mexican love song for just a few moments. Our guitar hero returns on the more country-sounding "Long Road" with really nice slide guitar work.

Vasquez leads with barrelhouse piano playing on the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Let Me Sing My Blues," with Grouws showing off her blues vocal chops. I could tell right off that "Weary" was going to be a travelin' song about being out on the road as Avey lays down the appropriate acoustic guitar notes to open the number before Grouws sings about how tired she is but with four more hours on the road ahead of her, sounding reminiscent of one-time Lone Justice singer Maria McKee. Avey makes good use of his slide later in the song.

"Dirty Little Secret" is a snaky blues on which Grouws sings about the man that she knows is no good for her, and her voice gets more assertive in the second half of the song after Avey lays down a solid jazzy blues guitar solo that fits this song to a T.

Our two leaders share vocals on the boogie number "Dig What You Do," an up-tempo stomper that gives Vasquez another chance to show off on the 88s. Horn players Nolan Schroeder and Dan Meier join the band for the final number, "Two Days Off (And A Little Bit Of Liquor), a jazzy tune that could have been from the 1940s if we didn't already know that it's a band original. Avey shares some of his best guitar picking of the album, reminding of Gatemouth Brown's best fretwork.

I'm still astounded that The Devil May Care is this band's first album and that they've only been together for a few years. It's just so polished and professional-sounding, and the songwriting is top-notch. I can't wait to hear what's coming next from Avey Grouws Band.

--- Bill Mitchell




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