Album Review: Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Released August 21st 2015

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Words: Gary Lambert
Every so often you come across an album that has such an immediacy that you feel like you’ve heard and loved it before. Nathaniel Rateliffe and The Night Sweats’ brilliant eponymous debut is exactly that. Although strongly influenced by bluegrass, soul and blues it really doesn’t matter what genre of music you find yourself associated with, you will love this. The key is in the quality of the songs themselves; They feel timeless. And that is not to say they sound old but rather since the advent of pop music you could imagine someone in any era writing this album. It feels so pure. Every time I listen to it I get a hint, a fleeting reminiscence of another classic.

Now we are not going down the same old pathway here, but as I listen I hear echoes of Van Morrisson, The Ronnettes, The Beach Boys, Reverend Al Green. I know that recording an album is hard work, but there is the sound of a party in this. There is one standout musical moment on this album too. Midway through the tracks we get hit with S.O.B. (Son of a Bitch) and the first time you hear it you will hit rewind. It is amazing. A feel good song that makes you want to swagger down the road in the rain. In fact in the name of musical science I did just that today as I took on the English Summer rain with that song in my ears to see if it could push me along rather than turn back to the office. The result was I ended up more soaked as I couldn’t help but let the beat thump through me and a shimmering saunter developed. I also wished I was a DJ as this would make a great end of the night tradition. It is a song for bouncing around in celebration.

Whilst obviously the standout moment, this album isn’t a great pop song surrounded by B-sides. Opening up with I Never Need Get Old, straight off the bat we have an uplifting, potentially alt-country track with a gorgeous, enticing intro which turns from toe tapping to an out-and-out dancing stomper straight out of Wigan Casino.

Second track Howling At Nothing takes the tempo straight to Moondance and Astral Weeks. The stretched vowels through the chorus remind me so much of Sunday mornings growing up as my mum would be doing mum stuff with the record player on loud and me complaining about “old music” that I now love. Indeed I’ve actually used my parents as a barometer of the quality of this album. There are not many albums which all three of us have listened to together without the precursor of “look I’m driving so we listen to what I want”.

Trying So Hard Not To Know adds a dash of Southern grit to the album before I‘ve Been Falling softens your aural palette prior to the raucous celebration of S.O.B.. After that we get a chunk of real Americana with Wasting Time. A song that reaches the point where Hillbilly intersects with the sounds of the Old Country, it could be an Irish folk song if it was not for the big sound left by America. But after some swaying and wistfully looking out to sea, we reach Thank You. This is the one song on the album which I personally don’t feel happy with. For me, and probably me alone, this song feels restrained as though the band are happy with one party song and despite a few moments where the song builds, it never gets wild.

Look It Here takes us once again to the acrobatic dances of north west England in the late seventies as the sounds of Chicago brought sunlight to the dark Satanic Mills of Wigan. This is a great Northern soul number like its opening track brother. I dare you to not dance.
Shake adds a bit of mystique to the sound with a Hispanic hypnotic beat to a chilled out, stoner vocal. On the Nathaniel Rateliffe tour of American beats and eras, I’m sent to The Summer of Love and into the Californian desert. There should be bourbon, cigarettes and snakes surrounding you to this track. In fact, I have never come across an album so visual as this in terms of the imaginary memories and images evoked. The end of the album is signalled with the whisky-soaked love lament I’d Be Waiting as the penultimate track as the singer tells of how given the chance he would be in the bar waiting all day for a dance with his baby. I think she’d give him that dance.

It is with heavy heart we reach Mellow Out which starts off with a slice of Stand By Me but mixes it in with a bit of undertone of chilled out psychedelia. At the end of a heavy going day, this is a cheerful, relaxed way to unwind and let your ears and dancing feet have a rest. They’ve earned it.

Overall I recommend you buy this album now. Get in on the ground floor because you will buy it in a couple of years time when Nathaniel Rateliffe and The Night Sweats are winning Grammys. You’re just saving yourself from two years of not owning this wonderful piece of music.

Listen to S.O.Bhere:
Watch the video for Look It Here here:

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