Nathaniel rateliff & the night sweats

Helen Hennessey

If you listen to some good radio, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. The group, fronted by the larger than life voice of Nathaniel Rateliff, has been reaching the top of the charts, performing on Jimmy Fallon and even receiving high praise from music legend Questlove. Their song S.O.B has over four million plays on spotify, and it absolutely deserves them. The song is pure, emotional and overall electrifying. Just try and blast it without feeling those foot-tapping urges.

The success of the Night Sweats is great for the world in general, but it’s especially welcome for Nathaniel Rateliff himself. The thirty-six year old singer has been a musician for all of his adult life, and was until now performing primarily as a solo singer-songwriter. Despite being one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation, Nathaniel was struggling to stay afloat. Thankfully for all of us, he decided to try one more thing and switch from folk to an Otis Redding, Sam Cooke style doo-wop. The band formed in 2013, and released their self titled album earlier this year, which I have the pleasure of writing about today.

I don’t intend on spoiling the record by giving you a song by song analysis (if anyone wants to take me out for coffee I am so down to do this one-on-one); instead I want everyone to understand how worthwhile this album is.

The album is reminiscent of old time records that you can find cheap at record stores (or as expensive collectors items on eBay), but with a refreshing edge. In fact one of the songs on the album Shake shares its name with an Otis Redding song, and the influence is clear. Both musicians employ a basic beat and sweetly sung instructions to dance that is sure to get anyone out of their seat. The Night Sweats provide explosive instrumentation utilizing horns, drums, bass and electric guitars, that is also similar to old school doo-wop, but with a clean, fresh feeling. I am a big fan of this new-old-school style coming into popularity. Artists like Leon Bridges and the Night Sweats are a really amazing addition to popular music.

Probably the most obvious strength of the album is Nathaniel Rateliff’s absolutely killer vocals. This man has a god-given talent, that much is clear. He is able to bellow with such power, yet still manage to keep a kind of sweet gruffness in his voice. His howling combined with the musical prowess of the Night Sweats makes this an album you simply cannot ignore.

Turning to older material, Nathaniel’s second album, In Memory of Loss, is one of my favourite albums of all time. Again, his voice shines through, but in a different way than it does with the Night Sweats. It’s quieter and more vulnerable, which partners quite well with his simple, yet beautiful instrumentation. That’s not to say there aren’t songs on his early records in which he uses his powerful howl: one of the best songs on the record, Shroud, has him practically screaming the whole time. One of the lines has him yelling with a desperation that gives me chills: “I could go backwards forever/ I could be boxed inside and living without/ well don’t blow my cover/ It’s taken years to make a beautiful shroud”. All of his folk albums are masterfully written and while I am glad he’s getting more attention with the Night Sweats, I wish more people paid attention to that early stuff.

All in all I am convinced that Nathaniel Rateliff, both with and without the Night Sweats, is a musical treasure. In the words of Jimmy Fallon, “If you believe in soul...if you believe in rock n roll...if you believe in performing your guts out...” listen to Nathaniel Rateliff. Also if someone happens to have an extra ticket to his sold out show in Glasgow you know who to invite.