Not quite sure quite how I got here but I am damned glad that I did. That pretty much sums it up for me.
I got utterly side-swiped by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats from the first time I heard it. I had read a bit of an interview with Mr Rateliff which bigged up how big and tough and mean he was and how incongruous it all was that he was releasing a soul R&B* record on Stax. When I saw it in the racks the day it came out, with such a great cover too, I snapped it up.
Good choice, Joe**.
Opening cut ‘I Need Never get Old’ is a real belter. That big band R&B sound kicking in gradually, that beat is utterly irresistible and when the man opens his mouth … it’s just utterly transporting. Deep down underneath all my wild womanising and low down dirty ways I’m just a big sap and ‘I Need Never Get Old’ just triggers me; it’s so romantic! Mr Rateliff can certainly sell a feeling and does so effortlessly here, in between all the happy foot stomping.
The production by Richard Swift is absolutely top-notch. He captures the band with a real living, breathing warmth and a real live, effortless sound, a deft touch of reverb in thereabouts too.
You know you really are on to a good thing when you play a new LP, love the first track and then the second track is even better. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats does exactly that with ‘Howling At Nothing’. Trust me on this. ‘Howling At Nothing’ is a wonderful pendulum of a song, swinging smooth and low, sounding like sex and hope and goodbyes.
I love how easy this all is to love, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats is such a great achievably human LP. There is nothing unattainably virtuosic about this LP, Rateliff pull off the neat trick^ of sounding ‘just’ like the best blue-collar soul bar band you’ve ever dreamed of stumbling across one night.
It’s all good here, I find it really is an album I can just relax into and be happy in. The rhythms sway and strut, the brass section punctuate all the right bits and Rateliff is a fine singer. Ghosts of Stax glories past are conjured up, danced with for a while and gently fused into new shapes.
I would pick out ‘S.O.B’ as a real treat. Gospel touches, acapella, clapping bits and then suddenly it all lurches towards the bar – repeatedly. I genuinely can’t help smiling every time I hear it. That has to be the dictionary definition of good music, surely?
If I have a criticism it is that Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats meanders to a bit of a close for me, the LP slows down as it continues and whilst it does have its’ moments (the tender, minimal ‘I’d Be Waiting’ being a definite album highlight) a couple of tracks are short on real punch. Mind you, if I was lucky enough to meet Mr Rateliff et.al. I would keep my views to myself; wisely.
Overall though this is a real treat of an album. Guaranteed to make a good Saturday night soundtrack while you’re makin’ food and drinkin’ love. Try it.
*in the old-fashioned pub band playing ‘Walkin’ The Dog’ sense of the genre, not in the ‘rappers not trying very hard’ meaning.
**which is not a Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats song title, but should be.
^and it is a trick, these guys are excellent pros, one and all. There are reasons you local band don’t sound like this.