Express & Star

Nathanial Rateliff, And It's Still Alright - album review

Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff began writing this third solo album in a downbeat place.

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The album artwork for Nathanial Rateliff's And It's Still Alright

The frontman of Nathanial Rateliff & The Night Sweats started this block of songwriting looking at the breakdown of the relationship he was in. So the vibes of reflection and sadness would have already been strong.

But then Richard Swift, his long-time friend and producer of NR&TNS’s two acclaimed albums, passed away in July 2018.

As a spokesperson succinctly says: "Across the 10 tracks, you can feel Rateliff faltering but never losing hope - hope that it’s all part of a bigger plan."

So it's quite an achievement that a few of the tracks do manage to evoke slightly upbeat feelings of looking forward. Mavis, with its big, harmonised vocal accompaniments, feels forward-thinking rather than looking back at what has passed. Yes, it's not happy-clappy, but the soft musicianship hidden within doesn't necessarily feel heartbroken.

Rateliff returned to Swift’s studio, National Freedom, in Cottage Grove, Oregon, with co-producers Patrick Meese, his long-time collaborator and The Night Sweats drummer, and James Barone – drummer for Beach House, who both also engineered and mixed the record. The album features additional contributions from Tom Hagerman, the DeVotchKa violinist, The Night Sweats guitarist Luke Mossman, Elijah Thomson, bassist in Everest, The Texas Gentlemen keyboardist Daniel Creamer and Eric Swanson the steel guitarist.

And the more emotive side of the songwriting is tender when you don't know the back story to the writing process, and extra emotive when you read about it.

You Need Me is an acoustic strum through his inner thought processes that's sleek and slender with its thrumming bass underneath carrying the track with a laid back ease.

Kissing Our Friends follows an acoustic journey again, but with a much more shy approach through a slowed down and intimate atmosphere.

The larger sounds work too for him. What A Drag is atmospheric in another way with its echoed musicianship carrying a fine beat throughout and the steel guitar adding another aspect of it.

This is a cosy blanket and cuppa record. Wet, lazy Sunday mornings encapsulated on one album. Perfect for this time of year.

Rating: 6/10

Nathaniel Rateliff performs at Birmingham's Symphony Hall on April 28