Avey Grouws Band – The Devil May Care
Self-Release – 2020
10 tracks; 36 minutes
This band has its origins in blues jams in the Quad Cities where vocalist Jeni Grouws met guitarist Chris Avey, formerly lead guitarist for Big Jack Pearson. The band reached the IBC Semi-Finals in both 2018 and 2020 and The Devil May Care is their debut release. The material here is all original, written by Jeni and Chris, supported by Nick Vasquez on keys, Randy Leasman bass and Bryan West drums; Nolan Schroeder (sax) and Dan Meier (trumpet) play on one track. The very clear production is a tribute to Travis Huisman who oversaw the recordings in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
From the start you can hear that the band has a really strong vocalist and a fine guitarist. Jeni teasingly proposes that we “Come And Get This Love” on the opening track, her strong vocals riding the riffs that Chris conjures up, the organ adding swing to the middle section and Chris playing an exuberant solo to close out the song. The nagging rhythm draws you into the title track and Jeni’s vocals keep you riveted as she tells her lover that “I want you to stay but I know that you won’t. The Devil may care about this sin, I sure as hell don’t” – another strong cut. The rhythm section sets a NOLA groove on “Rise Up”, a clarion call to turn our anger at injustices into action, Chris’ guitar catching the mood in an exciting, slightly rocky solo. The band shows that it can handle a soul tune on “Let’s Take It Slow” with plenty of Memphis groove in the guitar work, Jeni sounding pretty seductive on this one: “You get the wine, I’ll get the glasses, so we can do this thing just right. We’re gonna need a few records, ‘cos this could take all night”!
“Long Road” takes us some way from the blues, a rocking piece of Americana which celebrates the wide open spaces of the Midwest – big guitars, expansive keyboards and a powerful vocal performance. “Let Me Sing The Blues” takes us back to more familiar blues territory, the band aided by the piano and a classic blues riff before Jeni confesses that she feels “Weary” on a gentle tune with acoustic guitar and something of a folk feel. We return to the theme of illicit love that featured in the title track on a short track that packs a lot into 2.39 as the rhythm section plays a latin-inspired riff and Chris plays a lovely, light solo while Jeni does not sound at all apologetic about her “Dirty Little Secret”! Chris joins Jeni on a rocking duet entitled “Dig What You Do” before the horns add a jazzy element to the final track, a fun swinger to which many hard-working people will relate – “Two Days Off (And A Little Bit Of Liquor)”. The chorus is instantly catchy (whether you like a drink or not). Chris plays completely differently here, suiting the tune and showing that he is an accomplished player who can adapt across several styles.
This is an enjoyable and accomplished debut disc that should appeal to a wide audience and comes recommended by this reviewer.