Now from the category of best album I completely missed in 2015, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats self-titled release may be one of the better releases not just last year but for some years prior. Look, as loyal readers of this blog – which is celebrating its wool/copper anniversary – may have noticed, posts have not been abundant over the past several months. If the blogosphere was a plush, verdant forest, The Music Court has turned into a desiccated wasteland with small oases (did you know that was the plural of oasis? I didn’t) in patchy areas of dirt and tumbleweed. That said, when I have a few moments to myself and when a band like Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats pops up in my music search I just need to share it.
When I first heard Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats I immediately thought about the soulful renderings of artists like Booker T, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave: heavy soul with deep horn instrumentals featuring a powerful vocalist whose voice reverberated like an expensive scotch burnings one’s insides. Apparently my ear was as keen as the individuals over at STAX records where the aforementioned artists cut their teeth and where Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are signed. And, boy what a great signing that was.
Let’s start out of the gate strong with the band’s single, “SOB,” which pairs a bluegrass-inspired song about the classic blues trope – alcohol – with a Blues Brothers inspired video. The song, which apparently – according to a BBC interview – was first constructed as a joke, gained immense popularity, and that has sang to the tune of more than 15 million YouTube plays on the video. If one told me that only 15 people have listened to the song but have done so 1 million times a piece, I would believe you. I’m actually not sure how one listens to the song only once. “SOB” is musical pringles, a veritable earworm that latches on with a toe-tapping spiritual hum and then eats away with Nathaniel Rateliff’s raspy croon that preaches behind an adept rhythm section. Try to not listen to this song over and over again. Just try.
“I Need Never Get Old,” which is the song that turned me on to the band, actually features a stronger rhythm, starting with percussion and a rising horn riff that leads into an echoey vocal. The staccato pace carries the rhythm to new heights and the gradual crescendo towards the end is powerful. The video, which features the band slowly losing its mind after 100s of takes of the song and then quite literally growing old at the end, is oddly fitting. The band is a little quirky, featuring a soulful sound not heard often today, and its quirkiness is due to the old sound that the band produces.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats is special.