Tell Tale Heart- Album by Avey Grouws Band
Review by Joslyn Danielson – 10/08/21
The Avey Grouws Band is an up-and-coming 5 person group that is rocking the modern blues/americana scene. Their debut album, “Devil May Care” hit the #10 spot on the Billboard Blues Chart in 2020, and their second full-length album, “Tell Tale Heart” was released Sep 24th 2021, and it lives up to every bit of the hype.
As I write this, staring out at a foggy autumn day, the track titled “Mariana” lulls me into a sense of melancholic introspection. Chris Avey’s electric guitar playing is exceptional and gives the vibe of classic rock stadium solos. His ability to build up energy and funnel it all into a single moment of the song sends chills up your spine. He will then plunge headfirst back into the catchy blues riffs and masterfully keep the original groove driving.
Formed along the Iowa side of the Mississippi, the band has some obvious elements of country/americana, soul, roots rock, funk, and more… but they lay their foundation upon the blues. Jeni Grouws’ vocal stylings (alto belt with a tinge of twang) are distinctly melancholic and even a bit angry at times, reminiscent of the Joplin era. It’s during songs like “Love Raining Down” and “Heart’s Playing Tricks” that the blues is injected with so much rock and roll from Bryan West’s drumming, it takes on a new genre of hardcore blues-rock that you’ll likely be unable to sit still through.
Clearly drawing on influences of every kind to create this conglomeration of American music, the album is an exceptional soundtrack to the experience of the past few years.
In “Bad, Bad Year” (the stand-out track on the album for me), they use such classic and timeless stylings to comment on the current social climate, alluding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Chris’s guitar comes in on this track with a dirty blues solo, masterfully using a psychedelic effect to break up the long notes like a glitchy whammy bar. Jeni gives some crystal clear blues belts, hanging on the minor dissonant notes, with a bit of strategic rasp and vibrato at the exact right times, while Randy Leasman gives some classic blues bass licks.
Not to be forgotten, however, is the album title track, “Tell Tale Heart”. The song starts out as a slow, sultry, blues ballad with subtle keyboard by Nick Vasquez, but still gets grungy and raw like traditional blues. The lead up to the guitar solo made my eyes smart, there is so much emotion poured into this track.
The band is clearly polished and ready to tour after what seems like an eternity, and they hit all the sentiments the audience is likely feeling as well after the past few years. They obviously took advantage of that time and created a killer album, something to be proud of. All I can say for sure is that we’re in for a mind-blowing live performance at KJ’s Hideaway in November 2021.