Album of the Week: Nathaniel Rateliff, 'And It's Still Alright'

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Cover art: Nathaniel Rateliff, 'And It's Still Alright.'
Cover art: Nathaniel Rateliff, 'And It's Still Alright.' (Stax)
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Bill DeVille - Album of the Week: Nathaniel Rateliff, 'And It's Still Alright'
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Nathaniel Rateliff grew up in a small town in Missouri. He later moved to Colorado and formed a band called Born in the Flood. He had moderate success with a couple of albums under his own moniker as more of an alt-folk rocker before he formed the Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

In 2015 the single "S.O.B." took off, thanks in part to their appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Fallon even went total fanboy on them on the show. It was then that Nathaniel Rateliff hit the big-time. Next thing you know Rateliff and the band were the talk of the music industry and have become full on rockstars.

Nathaniel Rateliff is not in a very spirited mood on his new album And It's Still Alright. He had recently lost his friend and collaborator and producer Richard Swift, who had produced both of the albums by the Night Sweats. The album was recorded just a few months after Swift's passing at his studio. He'd also lost his mother and went through a divorce. These songs have a somber, mournful tone. The music sounds has kind of a 1970s feel, influenced by artists like Harry Nilsson, The Band. and even Leonard Cohen.

Upon first listen you know this is a different sort of album for Rateliff. There are no trusty Night Sweats. The songs are spare and soulful. The opener, "What A Drag'' sets the tone with its easy going front porch vibe with gentle clapping and finger snapping. The songs range from slightly bluesey, to a slow waltz on the track, "All or Nothing."

You can tell he finds comfort in these songs when you hear the album's title track "And it's Still Alright". It's moving and emotional. When Rateliff sings, "They say you learn a lot out there, how to scorch and burn / Gonna have to bury your friends and then you'll find it get worse," it puts a tear in your eye. The one seems to be about his friend Richard Swift. This is a song you can hang your hat on. It's a classic.

Another highlight is "Time Stands" which has more of that mournful tone. He knocks the vocal out of the park on this one, which he recently performed on The Late Show with Steven Colbert.

Nathaniel Rateliff is like a boxer who's taken a few hard punches, but he's not down for the count. And It's Still Alright is one of the best albums I've heard so far this year.

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