Nathaniel Rateliff had been around the houses before people started taking notice: an album apiece with Lost in the Flood and his own group, the Wheel, and two solo albums. Then, with nothing left at stake, he formed the Night Sweats and started recreating the sound of vintage southern soul, and people really did start taking notice: SOB, an irresistible drinking song about problem drinking, will doubtless haunt him for the rest of his life.
With two hits albums behind him, he has returned to solo work, prompted first by his divorce then by the death of the Night Sweats’ producer Richard Swift.
There’s one song here that sounds as though it will blare from in-store radio stations for the rest of the year: Time Stands is the kind of big ballad with a chorus so meaninglessly profound – “Time stands in a duel, and I stand with you” – that you can imagine people singing it to each other without having the slightest idea what they’re singing, other than it feels so darned right. Better, though, are the moments where he does what Swift had suggested, and tries to sound like Harry Nilsson – All Or Nothing and What a Drag, for example.
There are other times when the songs feel half-finished: Expecting to Lose lopes along pleasantly enough but its wordless chorus sounds like a placeholder that was never removed, and You Need Me has the same issue. The closer, Rush On, dedicated to Swift, is where the grief comes forth: not just lyrically, but in a subdued, sepulchral arrangement that, combined with Rateliff’s most extravagant vocal performance, sounds like mourning set to music.