|The influence of the Mississippi River on American jazz, blues and roots music is indisputable. Communities that have grown up along “Old Man River” gave birth to a unique sound. The Avey Grouws Band make their home in the Quad Cities, an area distinctive as the Mississippi River flows from east to west as it passes through the heart of the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf with sister cities of Rock Island and Moline across the river in Illinois. The mix of mid-western muscle and southern charm is reflected in the passionate, powerful and playful music of the band’s debut full-length album, “The Devil May Care.” The ten original tracks were written by the dynamic duo of Jeni Grouws and Chris Avey. Grouws has an alto that can blow like a cool breeze or thunder like a Kansas tornado, and Avey is a skilled guitarist that has drawn quick comparisons to Coco Montoya and Robben Ford. The duo is backed by a skilled rhythm section of drummer Bryan West with Randy Leasman on bass. Keys and horns augment several tracks. The result is a very fresh sound with deep roots.
The set begins with Grouws playing the coquette teasing her man to ‘Come And Get This Love,’ with the band employing the rumba to swing format delivering a great dance number. The title track is a clever twist on reckless behavior over an ice pick riff from Avey while Grouws sings about a forbidden affair that may be a sin but only “the devil may care.” West rolls out a rousing Bamboula street beat as Grouws calls on us to “turn anger into action,” on the fiery anthem ‘Rise Up.’ The mood then shifts on the sentimental doo wop flavored love song ‘Let’s Take It Slow.’ That Midwestern muscle and appreciation for the wide-open spaces on the Iowa plains comes to bare on the mighty rocking anthem ‘Long Road;’ a big track that features soaring vocals and a gritty slide guitar solo.
The rhythm section drops a convincing roadhouse shuffle augmented by some tasty barrelhouse piano as Grouws wails like Bessie Smith on the boiling ‘Let Me Sing My Blues.’ The acoustic driven track, ‘Weary,’ is a dreamy tome of longing, to escape the day’s troubles with blissful sleep. Grouws then adds a follow up to the title track with the scorching ‘Dirty Little Secret.’ Avey joins her on the feel-good duet ‘Dig What You Do,’ that’s a Southern fried boogie full of fun. The swinging album closer, ‘Two Days Off (And A Little Bit Of Liquor),’ spells out how hard-working men and women combat the hard times with the promise of a reprieve in the weekend. The earworm chorus will have you singing its hook all week long.
Jeni Grouws and Chris Avey officially formed the band in 2017 and have won critical acclaim in the region ever since. The depth and strength of this strong debut, “The Devil May Care,” should garner national attention for the group of musicians, who are the pride of the Quad Cities and well represent the talent grown in that area of the Mississippi Valley.
Rick J Bowen
With a deep connection to the Quad Cities and the music of the Mississippi River, Avey Grouws Band hit the mark with a gritty sound, stellar songwriting and a powerful show! The band has a special connection with their audiences, often bringing laughter and tears to their fans in a single show. Their sound is all their own, with a blend of blues, roots, country and blues rock. Jeni Grouws has been called “a rising star” by Blue Monday Monthly and it’s been written that Chris Avey’s sound is like “a younger, more fiery Coco Montoya with a dash of Tab Benoit.”
After meeting at a blues jam at Muddy Waters in the Quad Cities, Chris Avey and Jeni Grouws formed Avey Grouws Band in 2017, winning the Iowa Blues Challenge that same year, reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The list of original music grew quickly and in 2018 AGB released their EP, “Road to Memphis.” Since then they’ve continued to grow, write, tour and make fans and friends, playing festivals and clubs in Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. The band was also 2020 IBC semi-finalists.
Passionate, powerful and playful, Avey Grouws Band is here to make their music… and to have a good time doin’ it! AGB is Jeni Grouws, Chris Avey, Bryan West and Randy Leasman, regularly joined by Nick Vasquez on keys.