Forget everything you know about the man known as Nathaniel Rateliff. Whatever image that name conjures for you will be obsolete the next time you see him. The extraordinarily talented musician, whom we first came to know as the frontman of Born in the Flood and later came to love as one of this town's most expressive songwriters, is in the process of reinventing himself again. He's got these new songs he's playing, and, man, I'll tell you what, they're simply splendid. Like vintage soul? Great. You're going to love this.
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The band, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, made its live debut a few weeks ago at the Bluebird Theater, warming up for Joe King of the Fray. The outfit played earlier than I had expected and was done by the time I got there. I missed the set. I was bummed, but, hell, since I've seen Nathaniel perform countless times over the years -- as recently as December with the Lumineers, as a matter of fact -- so I didn't beat myself up to much for being tardy.
Almost as soon as I walked into the door, though, I ran into my buddy Bart Dahl, who manages Nathaniel, and he asked me if I caught the set. I didn't, actually, I said. My bad, apparently. Dude absolutely killed it, Bart breathlessly informed me. Nathaniel, of course, is Bart's boy. So he's supposed to say shit like that. He'd be remiss if he didn't, in fact. Not to mention, Nathaniel always delivers, so this wasn't exactly news anyway -- or so I thought.
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The next morning, Bart sent me a link to a couple new tracks, a pair of tunes Nathaniel had recorded and pressed for record store day. Holy shit! -- I think I might've even said out loud as I listened. Night Sweats is a whole new thing. He's trying his hand at soul, which is perfectly fitting if you know the backstory of how he started singing, and by god, it's fucking fantastic! It's everything Bart said it was and then some, horn section, the whole nine yards. Now granted, the recordings themselves sound like crap, like they were recorded hastily on some old four-track in the era they're channeling, but I'm sure that's the point, and either way, I see what Nathaniel's going for -- and I like it.
And so will you.
Oh, and I finally got to see the much ballyhooed Bluebird set that Bart was raving about, and now I really can't wait to see these songs live. But don't take my word for it. See for yourself above. And then make your way up to Boulder next Friday night. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats are playing a date at the Boulder Theater with the James Hunter Six. If you don't already have plans, you do now.
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