Nathaniel Rateliff
And It’s Still Alright
(Stax Records)
WHAT began as a side project for the Missouri singer-songwriter turned into a smart career move. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats was a full-blown soul band whose signature tune, S.O.B., set the template for the sort of hip-shakin’ R’n’B night-out that folks used to love from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes or even Vinegar Joe, back in the day. It sure was a shift from the introspective, although always melodic, songs Rateliff brought to his first gigs in Scotland, back in 2011, promoting the Memory of Loss album, his solo debut.
This new set is his first one without the big band in seven years, and it is, in some ways, a return to that earlier mood, except with fuller instrumentation — there is some lovely guitar playing in these grooves — and a more varied soundworld. Begun with producer Richard Swift and originally envisaged as documenting the collapse of Rateliff’s marriage, it changed gear when Swift’s battle with alcohol addiction ended in his early death from hepatitis and renal failure. Completing the album with songs remembering his friend, Rateliff seems to have found a spirit of celebration and optimism to leaven the melancholic tone, and created a set that recalls American classics of earlier years and the music of Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Harry Nilsson.
These are songs of love lost, lost loves and a friend missed, from opener What A Drag to elegiac closer Rush On, and there is not a duff one among them. He brings a live version to the UK in April for a short tour that opens at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on the 26th. It could be a rather special evening,