Nathaniel Rateliff – It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Nathaniel Rateliff Night Sweats album cover
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats album cover

Nathaniel Rateliff has turned over a new leaf, an interesting and dynamic new direction for his career, and the result is 40 minutes of aural bliss for his listeners. The music is distinctive, energetic and fresh, and a welcome flashback to halcyon days when R&B was making that magical crossover to rock ‘n roll.

After the first few powerful tracks, I imagined myself in this wonderful place, strolling down a narrow sliver of beach as the evening sun settled over the bay to the West. Just ahead, a weathered surfside club with the sweetest most soulful dance rock thumping through the walls and cascading through the open windows. The open-air club packed with pulsating dancers all keenly focused on the lush horn-driven sounds emanating from Nathaniel Rateliff and his new band The Night Sweats. It’s a perfect blend between Southside Johnny’s R&B-infused rock, and the infectious Shag music that ruled the Carolinas.

The music would be perfect in my little dream world, but it works just as well anywhere you can find a pair of good headphones or powerful speakers. The music on the band’s self-titled debut is distinctly different, yet totally familiar; unique compared to anything else on today’s airwaves, but a comfortable old companion for those of us who remember the wonderful times when rock and soul were paired so magically.

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. Photo by Malia James

Rateliff toiled around the Indie folk scene before making this sweeping change to his sound. Buoyed by his parents’ old record collection, he was inspired by some of the best, and with his talented new bandmates, created something quite special. The first track out of the gates has the septet tearing it up  on “I Never Get Old” a raucous celebration of turning over a new leaf and leaving your worries behind.  Joseph Pope III offers up plenty of sumptuous guitar licks, and the talented horns section makes their first of many tasty appearances.

Rateliff’s voice is gritty, yet melodic, and his vocals are deep and personal.  The lyrics are introspective and compelling, but this album shines because the music is so damn good.

There are frequent opportunities to reminisce on some of the bands he surely listened to when raiding his parents’ 45 collection: “Howlin At Nothing” is one of a few songs that brought back fond memories of early Van Morrison, while I’ve Been Falling” would have fit perfectly in a setlist for The Band.


The middle of the album is the true center and shows just how wonderfully diverse Rateliff and The Night Terrors are.  “Wasting Time” is a slow burner featuring Rateliff at his tender best, accompanied by hypnotizingly emotive keyboards from Mark Shusterman.  It is immediately preceded by “S.O.B.” a musical masterpiece that starts with hand claps and tremendous harmonizing, before exploding into an epic sing-along rocker with visceral vocals and raging horns.

Kudos to the stellar production courtesy of Richard Swift (The Shins, Foxygen) who did a magnificent job catching the band’s sound with a vibrant live feel, perfect for an album released on the revitalized Stax Records label.

The horns section truly makes this album the special offering that it is, but drummer Patrick Meese is the consistent driving force throughout, shining most prominently on the roaring “Trying So Hard Not To Know” which also spotlights some of Pope’s catchiest guitar licks. It’s a great song to give your speakers a workout.

It’s forty minutes of excellent new rock that’s destined to change the way you listen to rock for many years to come.

Rock On!
Cretin

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