The road to "The Natural Road" was long and fraught with detours, but The Floorwalkers will finally release their first proper album Friday at Skully's.

The road to "The Natural Road" was long and fraught with detours, but The Floorwalkers will finally release their first proper album Friday at Skully's.

Since forming among high school friends in Chardon circa 2001, the band has morphed, migrated and matured into arguably the most versatile pop-rock combo in Columbus, a well-honed unit capable of tackling nearly any genre and making it their own.

Recorded in spurts over the course of three-plus years, "The Natural Road" can't help but reflect The Floorwalkers' omnivorous approach.

"With such a long process for this album, we heard so many different things," guitarist Kerry Henderson said. "So many different bands would come out with albums, and we'd be like, 'Let's try and do that. Let's try and do that.' And then somehow it all swings back into your yard again."

The album is the end product of the most fruitful period of The Floorwalkers' decade-long career, marked by the 2007 addition of keyboardist Todd Hamric, who "completely karate kicked" the group's sound according to frontman Jonathan Elliott.

The band's lengthy stint working with Louisville-based producer Danny Kiely (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) also coincided with their two-and-a-half-year Wednesday night residency at Campus music hub Ruby Tuesday.

Though they ended the weekly gig about a year ago to focus on finishing the album and touring, those 129 Wednesdays were instrumental in honing their chops, expanding their repertoire and building a vast local following.

"Ruby's is where we met Columbus and where Columbus met us," Henderson said.

If the Ruby's residency was a lengthy courtship, "The Natural Road" is a firm handshake. Over 14 tracks in 55 minutes, it documents the band's entire history; opener "Three Wishes" dates back to guitarist Theo Perry's first practice with the band in 2003. As much a greatest hits collection as a debut album, it shows just how much ground they can cover without ceasing to sound like The Floorwalkers.

Sultry soul-funk, reggae-tinged pop and bluesy rock bluster rear their heads. The album's finest moments, though, are its calmest. From the swaying folk-pop of "For the Better" and "Fire Game" to the choral bliss of "Lay You Down" and "The Natural Road," the whispers communicate as powerfully as the shouts.

Every musician here plays like a master of his craft, but they rarely grab the spotlight, instead coalescing into rich arrangements built to complement Elliott's silky tenor. The rhythm section of Ben Meinhold and Tom Lasky is especially dexterous - you don't pull off this many feels and flavors without a firm foundation.

They've come a long way since Chardon circa 2001.