Music Monday X: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

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A few years ago I saw Mumford & Sons for the first time, at one of their Gentlemen of the Road festivals in Dixon, Illinois.  Since it was a festival, they brought a few artists along with them.  One of them was Nathaniel Rateliff, a burly tattooed fellow with a booming voice.  His performance blew me away and soon after the show I started listening to his music.  (He’s released two solo albums; check them out on Spotify.)

Not long ago, I started to see on his social media pages that he was working on a new project called The Night Sweats.  And then it was announced that this new project would release an album, and not only that, they would also be appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”  I watched Rateliff’s performance online the day after his appearance and I could scarcely believe what I was seeing and hearing:  an artist who I had grown to associate with introspective, acoustic folk music had shattered that image and replaced it with roaring vintage soul music.

Here’s a list of the thoughts that went through my head during the Night Sweats’ performance:

  • *Jimmy announces his musical guest* YAAASSS NATHANIEL RATELIFF REMEMBER WHEN I SAW YOU WITH MUMFORD & SONS AND NOW YOU’RE ON TV, I’M SO PROUD
  • *performance starts* Wait, where’s Nathaniel’s guitar?
  • This sounds so soulful, what the heck is this??
  • *Nathaniel sings “son of a b*tch*” WOW WHERE DID THAT COME FROM
  • *Nathaniel starts dancing* This is so weird but yeah, GET IT RATELIFF
  • This is so not what I got in Dixon but I love it??
  • I think I like this better than his old stuff.
  • *performance ends, camera switches to audience and shows that he got a standing ovation* HECK FREAKING YES THAT WAS SO GOOD

After his thunderous performance on “The Tonight Show,” Nathaniel Rateliff’s name seemed to be on everybody’s lips.  Music websites and magazines were raving about the performance and the Night Sweats’ debut album.  Many of the Night Sweats’ tour dates sold out.  I listened to their debut on NPR shortly before it dropped and I fell even more in love with Rateliff’s new sound.

Shocking as Rateliff’s new direction may have been to me at first, I think his new sound suits him well.  Acoustic guitar has been more or less phased out by a full soul outfit—songs are jam-packed with ragtime-y piano, gospel organ, shuffling electric guitar riffs (excellent example: “Thank You”), and a horns section.  His songwriting chops and his voice matched the intimate, whispered lyrics of his former acoustic sound just fine, but his voice seems equally at home in the full-throated, howling notes of his new endeavor (see “Howling at Nothing”).  Get ready to break in your dancing shoes with this album, too; its first single, “S.O.B.,” feels like a gospel-soul revival and will have your feet stomping and your fingers snapping to its infectious beat.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut album can be purchased through their website.  They are in the middle of a massive North American tour and will then be heading to the UK for a few dates.  Most of their dates are sold out, but check their website to see which one’s aren’t.  I haven’t had the privilege of seeing his new outfit live yet, but I bet they are not to be missed.

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