After a few years, an ongoing pandemic, and a false start, One Eleven Heavy is back on the shelves this week with their third album. The band was poised to record the album back in 2020 before the clamps came down and travel for an international band became all but impossible. The demos that were slated for album number three found serendipity in becoming a solo Nick Mitchell Maiato album for Was Ist Das?, a record that holds a kinship to the band’s work, but falls just outside the established canon. With both Maiato and Toth back in the choogle chair, the band swerves the spotlight harder South to nick nods to Groover’s Paradise-era Doug Sahm, Dr. John, and a bit of Santana. They gloss those on top of their ongoing Little Feat fandom. There’s also a good dose of Robin Trower sinking into the fray this time around, particularly when the band get the strings singin’ (leaning full on “The Fool and Me”).
The rest of the band remains a rotating roster of ringers, picking up The Jicks’ Jake Morris on drums and Guy Fowler on bass. Particularly missed this time around is Hans Chew, who’s always been like a gumbo George Harrison to the group, especially as his contributions rose on Desire Path. Here’s hoping that means there’s more solo Chew on the way, though. Oddly enough the departure lead to Nick taking over the piano parts, rather than taking the easy road and leaning heavier into the guitar. He was tasked with learning the instrument over the course of three months, and he still permeates the record with a bar rag, closing hour charm.
While the mechanics of getting the record together sound nothing short of stressful, the listener is never let behind the curtain. Poolside feels lived in and limber, still full of all the humor, hubris, sticky hooks, and extended jams that make 111 a household fave over here. What makes it all work, no matter the references, technicalities, or lyrical winks, is the palpable fun that James and Nick always seem to have as One Eleven Heavy. The joy seeps out of the speakers and scampers around the room. It’s the kind of chemistry that brings the listener back time and again for another hit.
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