Avey Grouws Band at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen
Avey Grouws Band
Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen, Bradenton
April 6, 2023
On their return to Bradenton, Avey Grouws Band demonstrated yet again why this under-the-radar band may not be so for much longer. A large and enthusiastic crowd of their loyal fans, and quite a few new faces, were highly entertained by an eclectic and well executed evening of music at David Shiplett’s Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen.
Led by lead singer and guitarist Jeni Holtan Grouws, and guitarist and vocalist Chris Avey, the band included touring professionals Calvin Johnson (Shaun Murphy, Anthony Gomes) on bass, Leo Albertoni (Toronzo Cannon) on keys, and Bryan West on drums.
The band’s blues foundation is evident in their songs, and their semi-final spot at the 2020 International Blues Challenge. Avey Grouws Band achieve a #10 ranking for their 2020’s debut “Devil May Care” release. Following this was the band’s 2021 recording, Tell Tale Heart. Debuted at #7 on Billboard’s Blues chart. Engineered and produced by Grammy-Award winner Casey Wasner, who described the music as “rock and roll blues soul.” An apt description for what the band delivered from the stage.
Playing from both recordings, the band also delivered wonderful versions of songs from other artists. On this night, the band’s version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was expertly sung by Jeni and brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation. Yes, it does not get better anywhere in this “big ole goofy world.”
But the band also writes their own music and the quirkily fun Two Day’s Off follows the blues tradition of writing a song from a true story. Just as fun was Dig What You Do – a song that featured vocal harmonies from Jeni and Chris, as well as fine keyboard work from Leo. The lovely ballad There For Me had couples looking into each other’s eyes. Another ballad, Let’s Take It Slow, showed the quality of lyric writing and Jeni’s voice.
Blues run through the fun and energetic I’d Rather Be Drunk, and Chris blues licks complemented Beck and Call Girl. Jeni vocals shone on this song. The band released both songs on a 2018 EP titled “Road To Memphis”.
Chris Avey’s guitar work stands with the best in the business. This is clear during “Mariana.” Eponymously named for the Atlantic Ocean trench, the song is just as deep and wide. It was a marvelously delivered bit of guitar work from Chris. You know the type of guitar playing that when the song starts, you’re not paying attention to the guitar. But a few measures into the song your brain will say that something great is happening. Yes, it’s that type of guitar work. A roller coaster of emotions, with a deep blues-rock crescendo. Some have compared the playing on this song to Robin Trower, and I would not argue with that point.
Local guitarist Vincent Sims joined in the fun and performed Love Her With A Feeling.
The future is bright for Avey Grouws Band. In September they will be performing at Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas – a well-deserved honor. And plans are underway for a return visit to Bradenton in November. Follow the band and Suncoast Blues Society for more information – this show promises to be special.
- Scott Morris