Artist: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Album: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Label: Stax Records
Release Date: 08/21/2015
On this self-titled debut release, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats conjure a gritty, hard-charging take on the distinctive R&B sound that once made Stax Records the headquarters of Soulsville, U.S.A. That the album has already produced a hit crossover single, “S.O.B.,” in a time when the radio is ruled by auto-tuned pop and dance hits is a testament to its classic approach.
Once described by the New York Times as a Denver “folk-pop hero,” Rateliff reinvents himself here as a gruff-voiced belter, who wouldn’t seem out of place on an old-time prison chain gang singing work songs alongside his fellow inmates. Just watch the handclap heavy video for “S.O.B.” Rateliff and company holler out the tune in a jail a la Johnny Cash at Folsom.
Elsewhere, record opener, “I Need Never Get Old,” introduces a stinging horn section that underscores the song’s driving beat. It’s a stirring mix reminiscent of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” which was originally released by Stax’s sister label, Volt, in 1965. Just like the King of Soul, Rateliff even tries his hand at singing a number called “Shake.” While Rateliff’s original is more of a slow-burner than Redding’s 1967 Sam Cooke cover, each song shares sly innuendos about letting go and getting down.
Comparing Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats to great artists from the past might seem like a reach, but by stirring up a debut sprinkled with references to its heroes, the band is well on its way to cooking up something special on future releases.
– Michael Cimaomo