Grammy award winner Justin Vernon of Bon Iver delves deep into the blues on The Shouting Matches’ latest offering, Grownass Man. A rough and ready blues burner of an album, Grownass Man is subtly refined by an injection of pure soul and capped off with a thin layer of country twang.
Vernon, alongside fellow Grownass band members Phil Cook and Brian Moen, played a single show back in 2006 as The Shouting Matches, predating Vernon’s success with Bon Iver. It’s taken seven years for the trio to reunite in their hometown, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and it’s clear that Vernon has gone back to his roots both physically and musically.
Opening track ‘Avery Hill’ bounces along on a pleasantly fuzzy rock n roll riff and sees Vernon kick off his shoes and get comfortable on blues territory.
Vernon and the gang hold steady for the majority of the album, dropping catchy blues riffs and chorus hooks on ‘Seven Sisters’, and ambling soul grooves on ‘New Theme’.
However ‘Heaven Knows’ is the stand out track; a muddy and distorted Vernon howls over an incredibly tight Moer on the tubs, before unleashing the delta blues via a crunchy guitar assault and wailing harmonica. The momentum continues on ‘Mother When?’; a soul infused blues roller that just keeps rolling and sees Vernon’s vocal delivery parallel some of the blues greats.
‘I Need A Change’ closes the album on a quieter note. A slow burning blues jam is drenched in soul and swagger, but is still endearingly vulnerable.
Vernon once again demonstrates his musical versatility alongside his fellow Grownass band members Phil Cook and Brian Moen. However this is no side project. With speculation Vernon is winding down Bon Iver indefinitely, we could be seeing more of The Shouting Matches in the future.
Grownass Man is the culmination of everything Vernon, Cook and Moen love about the blues, rock n roll and soul. It draws together the rawness of the delta blues, slickness of city blues, polished off with soulful emotion and a rock n roll demeanor.