Review: Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats Offer Timely Tunes

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats/The Future/Stax
3.5 out of Five Stars

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are fully invested in a sound that draws heavily from past precepts—specifically, a style that brings to mind the vintage sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s as generated from such diverse locales as Woodstock, Stax, and Muscle Shoals. The music is draped in communal trappings of those specific environs, a sound that carries a strong whiff of incense, patchouli, and pine, while still sophisticated enough to make an emphatic impression.

Brassy embellishment and funk-fueled rhythms provide the propulsion, but Rateliff’s soulful, expressive vocals convey the tone and temperament. He wails relentlessly on “So Put Out” and “Love Me Till I’m Gone,” and then meanders into mellower terrain with “Face Down in the Moment.” In fact, Rateliff makes a point of proving his diversity. “Love Don’t” literally sounds like a lost soul classic while the title track brings to mind The Band at Big Pink. So too, “What If I” finds Rateliff sharing the spotlight with Jenny Lewis and Lucius’ Jess Wolfe in a rousing display of soulful serendipity. 

Still, the album is accompanied by a somewhat ominous undercurrent. The title hints at a foreboding future and the uncertainty brought on by events of the recent past and present. That said, there’s a sense of unabated enthusiasm that rings through nearly every track, suggesting that  Rateliff isn’t deterred by any feelings of dread or despair. Like the albums that preceded it, The Future is filled with celebratory send-ups and, for the most part, an unbridled optimism that even in the most ominous situation, music can be rousing and revelatory for all to enjoy. 

Ultimately, The Future represents another plateau for a band that’s quickly earned a stellar reputation for both verve and versatility. The Future draws on those accomplishments through a timeless tapestry that offers reason to rejoice.

Photo by Danny Clinch

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