Album Review: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – The Future

The word that often comes to mind when describing Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats to people who haven’t heard them before, is ‘rollicking’. They seem to have a way of making you forget about whatever troubles were on your mind, even if it’s just for the 40 minutes you’re listening to their record (though to be fair it’s just too infectious not to play over).

The Future, their third studio record, is the same. Though it does have some differences to previous work. Frontman Rateliff’s previous release was his solo record And It’s Still Alright, a more introspective record that dealt with the emotional episodes he had experienced, including his relationship breaking up and the death of friend and producer Richard Swift. The record was clearly a personal one for Rateliff.

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

This record though does contain some of those more introspective moments, which long-time fans of Rateliff know well from his previous work. Rateliff sings “I’ve got a feeling that I can heal, it’s in the willingness to be still” in ‘Oh, I’ which starts off simply with guitar and harmony vocals before adding layers of instrumentation. And whilst you won’t see them delving into the more folk-oriented solo work that Rateliff is known for, there is a more exploratory feeling across varying styles. Of the 11 songs on the record, most are still firmly in the R&B/Roots section, but you get little forays into other styles with the jazzy soul sounds in ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone’ and the 60s quirky pop feels of ‘Something Ain’t Right’ (“Got to dig a lot of holes to get into something deep”).

The musicianship from all of the players in The Night Sweats is as polished as ever, from the unswerving stability of Patrick Meese’s drums and Joseph Pope III’s bass, to Mark Shusterman’s organ and keys underpinning the songs. Luke Mossman’s ripping guitar shines, and the horn section of Andreas Wild, Daniel Hardaway, and Jeff Dazey, well, whilst occasionally beautifully understated, when let loose they raise the songs to a foot stomping, hollering party. This is a record which deserves to be listened to through either a really good pair of headphones or a good speaker set-up to hear the layers of instrumentation present.

Lead single ‘Survivor’ has one of the most fun videos I’ve seen for a while, and I’m glad they didn’t go down the route of a pandemic-related video. The song features everything we know the band for, rip-roaring vocals, a pounding rhythm section, and horns pulling the song through to the catchy chorus. Lyrically, Rateliff is on form for the times we live in, “I’m afraid that the weight of the world is catching up with you, I’m afraid to admit that it’s catching up to me too.”

Writing and producing a record during a pandemic gave the band an opportunity to explore musical influences and observations of the world around them whilst also staying true to the sound of the band. Rateliff says of the record: “I look at the album overall as a big question. When I was writing the record we were in the middle of a pandemic and our future looked pretty bleak. I just continue to try to write from a place of hope.” That thread of hope is present in several songs, notably ‘I’m On Your Side’ which feels like a love letter to those firm friends you know you can rely on and they in turn on you “But if you ain’t alright just remember I’m on your side.”

Overall, the record has a varied feel whilst still utterly sounding like the band we’ve come to know and love. Ending the record is ‘Love Don’t’, which sounds like it’s straight out of the Motown catalogue and I can imagine it bringing the house down when played live. What Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats do well is bring us songs which have a familiar feel. They aren’t inferior copies of anything, but they do give us something to smile about whilst forgetting our cares for a short while. And that is something a lot of people need right now.

Ulrike Gotts

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