Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still Alright
– out Feb. 14
4 / 5
So you’re still jamming to 2015’s self-titled “Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.” So you’re still impressed how well Missouri-born Rateliff dances in cowboy boots. So you’re looking forward to Rateliff’s third solo album (it’s only been seven years since the last solo LP). Drop those expectations. This is not the same, dance-through-your-heartbreak Rateliff you fell in love with. But the heartbreak is there, the loss is there, the need to pull through (with a little less, with a little more) is there. And It’s Still Alright is an album woven from two threads: the eventual collapse of Rateliff’s marriage; and the sudden death of long-time collaborator Richard Swift. These threads twine together in a mellow, somber mood, centered around a steady acoustic guitar, restrained instrumentation, and a marked shift away from Rateliff’s powerhouse vocals. Here, Rateliff sings more soothing, with more ache to soothe; less bombast and party, less reason to dance recklessly. Realize that, when you come in to And It’s Still Alright, this is a 180 from 2015. And that’s a good thing.
Lyrically, Rateliff is devastating. It’s easy to get lulled into the quiet nature of these tracks, so it takes a few listens to pull out some lyrical gems, such as “It’s cold outside / I hit the ground and say / I can sleep here.” That’s from the title track, which acknowledges the depths of loss, and states clearly in the chorus, “but it’s still alright.” Our top tracks here are “Mavis,” with a soaring chorus that makes use of Rateliff’s pipes; and “Time Stands,” where Rateliff shouts against the vast emptiness, “Time stands in a duel / And I stand for you.” There is sadness, but there are also brief, important moments of uplifting, which make for a well-rounded experience.
It takes quite a few listens to burrow through what seems at first quiet and understated tracks, and a few more listens to get to the lyrical core of what Rateliff is expressing. That makes this album a grower for us, and highly recommended.
Visit Nathaniel Rateliff’s site and set out for his 2020 tour.