The fact that Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats is being released on the Stax imprint should pretty much tell you what to expect from the hirsute, Missouri-born Rateliff’s latest outing, his follow up to last year’s Falling Faster Than You Can Run, which saw him selected as Artist of the Month on Folk Radio UK . Where that was a mix of frequently spare and intense acoustic folksiness and fuller rumbling, electric guitar riffs and thumping drums, not to mention a spot of jazz, this sees him working with his new six-piece band and features plenty of brass, rolling piano, handclaps and foot stomping.
He rings the changes from the get go with I Need Never Get Old, a punchy, Southside Johnny-like soul swagger with country inflections that kicks down the bar room door and drags everyone on to the dance floor. They then slip into more of a loose-limbed Sam Cooke groove for Howling At Nothing (though the melody sounds more like a slower version of Saturday Night At The Movies) before the chugging Sam & Dave styled Trying So Hard Not To Know.
However, as listening shows, while Rateliff may have adopted a new musical wardrobe, the clothes inside still sport the same introspective confessional lacerations, spilling out raw emotional angst along with the molten urgency of the guitars and horns.
“Son of a bitch, give me a drink!”, he defiantly roars on longtime gospel hand-clapping testifying live favourite SOB. The track is sandwiched between the saloon bar piano roll of I’ve Been Failing with its Mel & Tim hints and the more restrained, country-toned, pedal-steel streaked Wasting Time, both of which lay brutally bare his demons and self-recriminations.
After the sweat-generating energy that dominates, the album takes the tempo and mood down for its final stretch. With its war dance rhythm, the slurringly sung Shake recalls the Everlys brand of rock n roll while I’d Be Waiting has a light jazzy groove, Rateliff crooning with a touch of Van Morrison behind the brushed drums. Mellow Out brings down the curtain with a nod to the laid back side of Otis Redding. There’s been a revival of interest in old school soul over the last couple of years, and with this, Rateliff should be surfing to the top of the wave.
Review by: Mike Davies
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats is Out now
Order it via Amazon