2021 – Navy House Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 28, 2021
Iowa-based blues-rockers Avey Grouws Band has yet another delectable album to sink one’s teeth into. Tell Tale Heart is their latest record, and follows up quite nicely to their acclaimed 2020 release The Devil May Care which broke into the top 10 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart.
While the record was being composed during the pandemic, they also broke new ground by hosting 102 semi-weekly live mini-concert streams via their “Quarantini Party” and “Bloody Marys and Blues” events. Their dedication to provide entertainment to their fanbase is quite apparent. This is a band I’ve had the pleasure of seeing twice this summer already. In June, I saw them open for Walter Trout at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa. Then in July, I caught them at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. In both instances, I immediately noticed their magical connection to their audience. Avey Grouws Band is comprised of Chris Avey ( lead guitar/vocals), Jeni Grouws (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Randy Leasman (bass guitar), Bryan West (drums), and Nick Vasquez (keyboards).
The driving rhythm, and killer riff of “Love Raining Down” jets the album skyward in a glorious blaze of blues-rock. Avey’s fearless approach to laying it all out with his guitar demands the listener’s full attention. Grouws’ powerful, velvety vocals captivate me as political polarization runs rampant and lines are drawn in the sand in “Bad Bad Year”. Fueled by heavy doses of Billy Gibbons-inspired guitar and a badass beat, this makes for another great cut. Title-track “Tell Tale Heart” takes a beautiful yet melancholy turn as Grouws delivers a vocal performance full of heart and soul. The heaviness and inner-turmoil woven into the lyrics are amplified by a wall of sound from the band. It sounds great. Immediately following is a wonderful Pink-Floyd-esque instrumental called “Mariana”. Avey pulls out all the stops as he just lets his guitar speak. West, Leasman, and Vasquez create the perfect space for this intoxicating piece of music to take place. I heard this one performed live when AGB opened for Walter Trout, and it was an amazing experience to say the least. “Daylight” is refreshing and delightful. Its playful melody and softly-sung lyrics warms the soul. I love the funky pulse running behind “Heart’s Playing Tricks”. As the swirling sound of keys from Vasquez fill the air, Avey tosses a groovy and infectious riff on top. This is most definitely another favorite.
Loaded with ten all-original songs, Tell Tale Heart is an absolute gem of an album from start to finish. This is a record I highly recommend.