Since the release of his critically acclaimed In Memory of Loss in 2010 Nathaniel Rateliff seems to have been slowly accumulating band members on his travels. Now set with a 7-piece ensemble behind him, Rateliff sets the honest, melancholic folk of his solo efforts ablaze with feverish soul. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweat’s self-titled debut album, produced by Richard Swift (The Black Keys, The Shins) and released by legendary label Stax is a rattling and rowdy collection of irresistible soul that retains the integrity, conviction and deeply personal thematic content characteristic of Rateliff’s output.
I Need Never Get Old opens the deluge of upbeat fever. The horn-driven romp that marches ever onward, accompanies Rateliff’s handsome howl as he proves to be an unrelenting force from the outset. The more languid groove of Howling At Nothing is intoxicating and enchanting, while Trying So Hard Not To Know revels in Rateliff’s blazing belt and gritty gusto. The mild-mannered introspection of the country-kissed Wasting Time does its best to calm nerves after the foot-stomping anthem S.O.B. The rollicking track, which could as easily find its home in the barroom as it could at the pulpit, offers up a spirited sermon about frenzied recklessness, as well as the real sadness of veiled struggles.
Beautiful motifs shared between horns, organ and electric guitar wail above unrelenting percussion in Look It Here, as Rateliff utters bitter, bittersweet sentiments: “I’ve got a love so hard I can’t stand it / and with a heart so weak and abandoned”. In Shake the band treats us to a psychedelic sensuality, offering a refreshing and captivating take on retro sultriness, before Mellow Out plays us out with a charming, breezy tenderness that would make Otis Redding bliss out.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats deliver a debut that is exciting and loveable; an effort whose retro influences are palpable, but never become indistinguishable or repetitive. Rateliff steers the band’s charisma with his own magnetism, creating a alluring record and passionate performance.