The busy Avey Grouws Band is barreling toward the Sept. 24 release of its second album, “Tell Tale Heart,” and the QC blues band will give a free show Sunday at 4 p.m. on the lawn at Deere-Wiman House, 817 11th Avenue, Moline.
Avey Grouws Band opened for Walter Trout to an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd at the historic Adler Theatre this past June. .Jeni Grouws’s powerful vocals and Chris Avey’s unmatched guitar skills are enhanced by the amazing musicianship of drummer Bryan West, guitarist Randy Leasman, and Nick Vasquez on keyboards. Their sound is a unique blend of blues, rock and roots/American music.
Veterans of the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest, the band won the Iowa Blues Challenge of 2017 and its next album, “Tell Tale Heart,” is set to release on September 24th. Divine Soul 2 Soul food truck will be selling delicious food on the Deere-Wiman grounds Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. As part of the Music On The Lawn concert series, Avey Grouws Band is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. Attendees should bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. Picnic food is allowed.
Should inclement weather occur, the concert will be held inside the Deere-Wiman Carriage House with limited seating.
Grouws and Avey composed the “Tell Tale Heart” songs during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the album’s lyrics respond directly to the international health crisis and political and social turmoil that engulfed 2020.
“Tell Tale Heart” was primarily recorded in April in Nashville, Tenn., at East Iris Studios, produced and engineered by Grammy winner Casey Wasner. He’s a drummer for Keb’ Mo’, guitarist for Robben Ford, and originally from Minnesota.
A recent review at rootsmusicreport.com says that Grouws “has lost none of the fire and spunk shown on the AGB’s 2020 release, The Devil May Care, as evidenced here on the leadoff blues-rocker, ‘Love Raining Down.’ Dialing it back for a heart-tugging reading of the soul-rock ballad ‘Hanging Around,’ she makes its case for serious airplay consideration. Impressive slow blues work appears on the pungent ‘Bad, Bad Year’ and the torchy title track. Props to guitar ace Chris Avey and band for solid support throughout.”
Another song inspired by real life, “There for Me,” charms with a positive message, feel-good groove and harmony vocals, according to a band release. Grouws sings about her two-fold gratitude, for the female friends who helped her through the pandemic and the thousands of online viewers who watched the 102 performances the Avey Grouws Band streamed live in 2020 and 2021. “There’s something special about knowing that you’re not alone,” Grouws says.
“Hanging Around” is a breezy track at the pop and ’80s alternative-rock ends of the band’s repertoire. The lyrics depict a relationship in which one partner stays, waiting in vain for the other partner to change. The album’s darker songs include title track “Tell Tale Heart,” a blues-infused power ballad about an unfaithful lover. “That’s the one that makes people cry,” Grouws says.
A seven-minute instrumental in a spacey Pink Floyd mode, “Mariana” spotlights the guitar prowess Avey gained through studying his guitar heroes. Changing stylistic direction again, the acoustic ballad “Daylight” captures the promise that a new day brings after a sleepless night. “Heart’s Playing Tricks,” a funky blues-rock track, expresses the paranoia experienced when one suspects their partner is fooling around.
The funky “We’re Gonna Roll” expresses the need to find some fun in a post-pandemic world. And “Eye to Eye,” Tell Tale Heart’s high-spirited closing song, pairs Grouws and Avey for the album’s only vocal duet. “That’s Chris and me playfully yelling at each other,” Grouws explains. “We argue about everything, but I could not have a better friend.”
The future members of the Avey Grouws Band met in 2015 at Muddy Waters, a blues bar on the Mississippi River in Bettendorf. Grouws, then working as a morning radio personality, was in town on business. She dropped by Muddy Waters to hear a blues jam led by Chris Avey, Bryan West and Chris’ brother, Mark Avey.
Grouws sees her formal music training and Avey’s freewheeling, learn-as-you-go approach as the ideal combination. “I learned to do music exactly as it’s written,” she says. “But Chris is so anti-structure. He forced me to loosen up and go with the moment. I realized that I can follow my instincts and express something that wasn’t written or expected. That’s something I love about our performances. And it’s mesmerizing to watch Chris lose himself on stage. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Their debut album, “The Devil May Care,” was released in March 2020, earning critical acclaim, reaching #10 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart and received a BBMA nomination for best debut album by a new artist. The album was also nominated for four Independent Blues Awards.
The song “Rise Up” was named top song on the Ben Vee Roadhouse 66 top songs of 2020 and “Come and Get This Love” won top honors in the Unsigned Only Songwriting Competition and a finalist placement in the International Songwriting Competition. “The music and songwriting are solid…Grouws’ stirring vocals, capable of delivering sultry phrases or passionate roars…an auspicious debut.” (Jim Hynes/Elmore Magazine)
Last year, when the pandemic stopped the band’s touring plans, the Avey Grouws Band launched a year of twice-weekly streaming performances. The streaming —Friday night’s “Quarantini Party” and Sunday afternoon’s “Bloody Marys and Blues” — yielded a worldwide community of fans, watching in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Australia. “We weren’t there to simply do a performance. We were there to connect with people, especially in a year when they were experiencing intense disconnection and isolation.,” Grouws says.
“Maybe the most important thing to understand about our band is that we are the mix of all of our Middle America backgrounds and experiences,” she says. “That includes blues, folk, Americana, rock. We take what we have learned from those masters and make the music that feels the most authentic to us. This album is the best work we have ever done.”
The band will also play at an Oct. 1 album release party at Gypsy Highway, 2606 W. Locust St., Davenport, at 8:30 p.m., where there will be a $6 cover. For more information, visit www.aveygrouwsband.com.