Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
by Lee P. Doptera
On the streets of Colorado you can scream "SUNUVABITCH" at a stranger and get a smile and an answering "GIMME A DRINK." "S.O.B" is the kind of song that everyone loves. You love it. I love it. Collectively, as a human race, we love this song. Now go listen to it so you can be part of that "we."
Where do you start with a band like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats? The live shows? They are phenomenal. People lose their minds at these shows; shows that are regularly free to cheap in the lucky state of Colorado where the band originated. Hearing a crowd that spills across the streets and every available inch of Old Town in Fort Collins humming the intro to "S.O.B." like a swarm of hell-bees is unearthly; even more so when you realize you're humming too. People dance with an abandon that brings the EMT's scrambling with fears of epilepsy. Then the band slows into "Shake" and the crowd slithers and moans. This is moving music, the kind that possesses wallflowers and peels them out of the corners.
Nathaniel Rateliff sounds like an old blues man who just hopped off of a train from another time and planet. His voice is beautiful and soulful and expresses pain, seduction, love, joy, and humor with absolute conviction. You just have to listen to him because there are no easy comparisons. He is wholly unique and headed quickly towards richly deserved fame and success.
The band, good God, the band. Where did they come from? I am petrified of what the future brings for this band because generally you can hear that potential for growth in a first album and you look forward to it with excitement. I fear for my mental state if they get any better because it will mean readjusting my perception of reality. They are flawless and punchy and driving and delicate; in short they play exactly what you never knew you always wanted to hear.
You have heard them. They are all over the place now. The hummed chorus of "S.O.B." plays hilariously in the background of a family-friendly tea commercial, "Son of a Bitch" roars through trailers for the series Shameless, and now Nathaniel himself plays dueling banjos with hamsters to... somehow promote a car? I don't follow the story art, but I support the exposure.
I spent months dragging people to my computer or intrusively leaning across their computer chairs to pull up poorly shot youtube videos of NR&NS; videos they watched so I would shut up and let them have their keyboards back. But the thing is, no matter how irritating I was about it, everyone had to admit they liked it. There's something alive about their music. Something that makes you want to lose your mind a little bit.
These days the band tours all over the world. The free-to-$5 shows are likely a thing of the past, but my glass is raised to them. After all, this is the point. Despite our (my) desire to claim exclusivity when it comes to liking a great band nobody else has heard of, if it keeps on that way they have to pawn their instruments and tie on barista aprons. Keep those '50's B movie-sized hamster checks coming. They are certainly deserved.
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