Even though an increasingly large number of bands are choosing to defy genre expectations and incorporate a diverse musical background into their work, most still stick to a singular style that is easily identified as their own. Such is not always the case with the 11th Floor Band, a Californian quintet with nearly countless ex-members from their twelve years of existence. With the 2014 release of Sweet Mystery, the 11FB is making it clear that they will not be confined to any preconceived expectations of what they have to offer.
Incorporating four different vocalists, each of their songs seems like it could be from an entirely different group. The album opens with a number of blues-style rock tracks, transitioning into a rock-country hybrid. The subject matter ranges from drunken dances in dive bars to more traditional emotional ballads. At times, their style evokes bands like the Wallflowers, Counting Crows, and any number of old-style country bands. One could equally imagine them playing in a bar, at a wedding, or opening for a Trace Adkins show.
In a very tangible way, this group is a compilation of modern American roots music: country, blues, and rock all coming together in one package. But beyond the stylistic boundaries of any one of these genres, the 11FB maintains the core of what ties all three together: a loner standing against society. Songs like “Ghost on the Highway” and”Right Amount of Drunk” illustrate the individual’s path in a strange world, whereas “Rendezvous Road” and “The Worst” make the struggle for a place in life relatable.
The ability for the loner and outcast to relate to others is one of the great hallmarks of American music, especially that which began as the music of the downbeat lower classes. Particularly in a society that demands competence to survive with little help, its members may feel isolated and alienated if their own values are not aligned to that of the mainstream culture. Groups like the 11th Floor Band hearken back to that old school of music which exists to represent the unrepresented, and the 11FB does a particularly good job of combining three very distinct-yet-related genres in their albums. Seeing that blues, rock, and country are all close cousins may yet inspire some of us to go beyond the kinds of music we’re used to, choosing to explore different options – even within a single album.