Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | s/t (Stax)

Rateliff sqThis disc bellies up to the bar, hits the bottle hard and never lets up until long after last call.

 

On a midsummer night, Jimmy Fallon gave a resounding endorsement for an, at the time, mostly locally known Denver-based act. When Fallon went all fanboy over Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats during the band’s national television debut, the seismic reactions it set off were felt in the stratosphere. As Fallon acknowledged the standing-room audience, Rateliff allowed himself a sheepish grin in an iconic moment.

Denverites have long been aware of this band, or at least Rateliff as a solo act; he has been a staple of the Denver music scene for the better part of a decade. In forming the Night Sweats, he offers this self-titled collection and, with the momentum gathering, Rateliff seems destined for global domination.

With an ensemble of jangly, heavy reverbed swinging guitars by longtime collaborators Luke Mossman and Joseph Pope III, a metronomic horn section, and gut-punching drums courtesy of Patrick Meese, each track seems like a single-take recording in an oversized theater, void of any effects and striped to the core—yet this recording does not sound thin or cheap. As a whole, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats comes off as a polished offering, with such rolling hypnotic blues hymnals of “Howlin’ at Nothing” and “I’ve Been Failing,” on which Rateliff channels his inner Van Morrison. These tracks alternate in style between the the stompin’ and poundin’ soul of “Trying So Hard Not To Know,” which conjures “Suspicious Minds”–era Elvis, the lyrically simplistic swing of “Thank You,” and the Willie Nelson–esque “I’d be Waiting.”

Rateliff sings himself raw on this disc, not just sonically, but thematically, as well. His style, which rachets his soulful tenor to an amplified hollerin’ and howlin’ on the driving lead track, “I Need Never Get Old,” all serve to encapsulate his early Missouri River Valley upbringing: introspective and introverted, boisterous and blue collar…like a modern-day Huckleberry Finn.

The album’s capstone track is “S.O.B.,” a night-wearied, soul-bellowing ode on which whiskey-soaked music plays background to delirium tremens lyrics. At the helm of this song, the working class, spirit-channeling everyman Rateliff provides an instant Southern comfort classic destined for crossover playlists and jukeboxes everywhere. If this track doesn’t have you clapping, square dancing, and drinking along, you’re just plain no fun. This disc bellies up to the bar, hits the bottle hard and never lets up until long after last call. A- | Brian Kenney

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