Soul music never goes out of fashion. It may fluctuate between being mainstream and being saved for bi-monthly club nights; but to soul aficionados, it is constant, always burning bright, infectious in its ability to make people dance, to make them groove. Having ditched the acoustic guitar for a 7 strong soul band – The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff delivers a self-titled record which would be a sure fire winner at getting people on the dancefloor and moving; a record full of heart.
Opening track I Need Never Get Old is a rip-roaring introduction to this Version 2 of Nathaniel Rateliff, a toe-tapping, shoulder-shaking yarn about love and the way it takes a hold on the heart. The longest track on the record at 4 minutes and 14 seconds, it acts as a great introduction to the album. Rateliff growls his way through Trying So Hard Not To Know, with the band laying down a tight rhythm pattern, followed quickly by the hand-claps and tambourine tapping of I’ve Been Failing, with Rateliff doing an uncanny vocal impersonation of Caleb Followill from Kings of Leon.
S.O.B. is soaked in gospel sounds, harmonious backing vocals and foot-stompin’, and sees Rateliff arrive at a moment of clarity – “I’m going to cover myself with the Ashes of you, and nobody is going to give a damn” – before breaking down into a joyous celebration at the chorus. If there is one track on the record that encapsulates Rateliff’s sheer enthusiasm and vision for the record, S.O.B. is it, an almost perfect slice of soul.
It would be too easy to dismiss Rateliff and The Night Sweats as falling into pastiche, as this is a record which clearly has had blood, sweat and tears poured into it. Whilst it may have seemed a left-field turn from an artist usually associated with more melancholic sounds, Rateliff has really pulled this off; and has in turn produced one of the finest records of this year. Chalk this one down as a home run.