With influences that range from honky-tonk country to bluegrass to blues, Saints Eleven is a band that is tailor-made for the Americana genre. Now on its third album, “Coming Back Around,” the Texas group has become a favorite in the Texas country/Red Dirt scene for its live shows, genre-bending sounds and insightful lyrics. This new release has brought the trio some much deserved recognition outside of its home state, too. A profile in USA Today and a cool, Matrix-styled video for the title track has helped stir interest, and the quality of the album itself should convert a good chunk of that new audience into diehard fans.
“We’ve had some great feedback and are still trying to soak it all in, but at the same time we’re trying to move forward, reach more people, and spread the word as much as we can,” says guitarist/vocalist Jeff Grossman. Grossman and bassist Jeff Mosley have been playing together for most than six years, and they have been joined by new drummer Alex Shepherd.
“Coming Back Around” was produced by Walt Wilkins, the renowned Texas singer/songwriter and leader in the Red Dirt scene. Grossman calls Wilkins’ participation a career highlight and says it came about after an initial meeting.
“I just flat-out asked him, ‘What’s it going to take to get you to produce our record?’” Grossman recalls. Wilkins asked to hear some music, so Grossman recorded a few tunes on his phone and sent them on. Wilkins was happy to come on board.
Grossman says that Wilkins helped to add an Americana/soul vibe to the album. “Coming Back Around” proved to be more than a title for the album, it also served as a mission statement of sorts.
“That was probably one of the first songs I wrote for the record and kind of molded the shape for the rest of the songs on the album,” Grossman says. In a literal sense, the song is about growing older and learning from your past mistakes, but on a musical level, it also signaled the band’s return to a more diverse sound, embracing the Americana, bluegrass, blues and country influences. It’s not a deliberate attempt by the band to show off their musical abilities; it’s just the natural progression of the songs, from Grossman’s lyrics to the recorded version.
“One of the biggest compliments we get is that we sound different, but we’re not trying to sound different. When we start working on a new song, it falls together and ends up what it ends up being,” he says.
Grossman wrote every song on the album save one – an excellent cover of Buck Owens’ “Cryin’ Time.” Among the many highlights are “Heartbreak Songs,” an ode to the classic tearjerker, and the bluesy “Let Them Go,” a duet with Courtney Patton. “Strange Round Here,” a harrowing tale of small-town life, was unfortunately based on a true story.
“I’ve been in construction for a long time, and we had a job down in Waco. One of the guys who worked for me was a general contractor from Dallas, and this job was a couple hundred miles away,” he says. “Long story short, he met this girl in one of the bars down there, hooked up with her and got her pregnant. He didn’t want to tell his wife, so he killed her. It’s a sad story, but it makes for a good song.”