Katy Guillen & The Girls – Heavy Days
10 tracks/42:06 minutes
On their sophomore album, Katy Guillen & The Girls powerfully deliver their signature blues rock, reaching out and grabbing us with their driving guitars and emotionally compelling lyrics and vocals. In these ten songs on Heavy Days, Genya Ravan meets Alvin Lee meets The Beatles as the trio works out themes of loss, loneliness, love gone wrong, or love that can’t bear the load of the enduring push and pull of a relationship. Guitarist Guillen penned five of the album’s songs; bassist Carrie Adams penned one song (“Cold Was the Night”), and drummer Stephanie Williams joins forces with Adams and Guillen on three songs; the band delivers its own take on Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go.” The trio arranged all the tunes.
“Driving to Wake Up” opens the album with a riff out of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business,” but the tune soon meanders off into a modulation that takes it lead from jazz more than rock. The band then veers off the road from the measured blues march with which the song begins into a frenetic, driving straight ahead rock and roll extended bridge that features Guillen’s blazingly nimble lead runs. The feverish music mirrors the lyrics that capture the distraction that comes with nightmares—”I suffered from a tainted batch of sleep/won’t you donate a restful night to me/driving just to wake up.”
“Heavy Days” opens with a riff from “Baby Please Don’t Go” but soon moves into a stomping rocker, punctuated by a momentary swooning chorus that functions almost as a dream sequence in the midst of an otherwise raucous tune that matches the singer’s emotional roller coaster. The heaviness operates on multiple levels, but it’s the falling that accompanies the weight, as well as both the uncertainty and freedom that accompanies the fall that Guillen’s screaming guitars bring to life.
“Waking Up from You” opens as a poppy ballad, with bright guitars and brighter vocals, but it turns up the heat in the chorus—with echoes of The Raiders’ “I’m Not You Stepping Stone”—with lyrics that smartly match the fervor of the guitars: “that intensity, so good, that you gave to me.” The tune’s structure reflects the twisting and turning that accompanies the bittersweet nature of the relationship.
The singer in “Don’t Need Anyone” struggles at first with a lover’s inattention but soon realizes that the lover doesn’t need anyone. At the same time, the song cuts both ways: the singer also tells herself that she really doesn’t need anyone. There are echoes of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” throughout the song, but especially in the bridge, where Guillen shows off her jazz scat, matching her vocals note-for-note with her leads.
The trio delivers a driving punk blues on “Can’t Live Here Anymore,” which features an Alvin Lee-like guitar solo from Guillen. The band slows down “Baby Please Don’t Go,” punctuating the ache and yearning of the song while retaining its gritty funkiness. In their transporting version, Duane Eddy and Johnny Winter meet soul blues. It’s one of the more compelling versions of the song out there. The album closes with a slow ballad, “Pulling Up from the Grooves,” carried along by Gullien’s crunchy jazz guitar; it’s a dreamy songscape that sounds like it could be off a late Beatles’ album, especially with the addition of Ryan Heinlein’s trombone.