Early on in their friendship, like-minded musicians Nick Mitchell Maiato and James Toth bonded over a shared love of both iconic jam bands and the more deeply fried corners of noise rock. When they finally collaborated years later, their band One Eleven Heavy took notes from both the cosmic sprawl of the Grateful Dead, the full-force boogie of Hot Tuna, and the demented swagger of the Royal Trux. Along with contemporaries like Garcia Peoples, Dire Wolves, and Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, One Eleven Heavy became part of an updated jam band mentality. While the stonery exploration of '60s and '70s psychedelia was certainly an influence for all of these acts, their true spark came from how they mutated that influence into something stranger and more of their own creation. With second album Desire Path, One Eleven Heavy go deeper into their own thesis statement on the intersectional freedom shared by both jam bands and lawless noise rockers. The album opens with the seven-and-a-half-minute slow-burner "Chickenshit." The song's dual guitar leads, bar-room piano, and wobbly bass line sound like Accelerator-era Royal Trux covering the Grateful Dead's "U.S. Blues," building from a shouty, romping first half before riding out a mystical, hypnotic groove till the song's end. The album tends towards a high-energy reading of this kind of songwriting, from the snaky hooks of Stones-y "Mardi Gras" to the polyrhythmic flow of "Three Poisons." Precise guitar leads balance out the band's generally easygoing presence. "Fickle Wind" is light and spacy without being loose, and "House of Cards" is unserious but never sloppy. The album is an evolution from their 2018 debut, Everything's Better, in terms of playing, songwriting, and the shape of their sound. Drawing more from the backroads grit of Little Feat or Hot Tuna than the easier-to-pigeonhole sunshiny daydreams of the Dead, Desire Path sounds like a weird party happening outside of time.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas