Album Notes - Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats - The Future

Album Notes - Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats - The Future

November 11, 2021

When I was able to score second-row tickets on a re-release four hours before showtime, little did I know that Nathaniel Rateliff's concert on March 5, 2020 at Milwaukee's Riverside Theater would be my last chance to experience live music for 17 months. Rateliff was touring in support of And It's Still Alright, a solo album reflecting on loss, written to cope with his recent divorce and the death of friend-collaborator-producer Richard Swift. It was a wholly different sound than the one he found success with through his R&B/soul excursions backed by the Night Sweats. Whether or not it was the power of the exquisite performance that night at the Riverside or the headspace from which Rateliff wrote the tunes aligning with the context the world would soon find itself in, over the ensuing year, I'm not sure I listened to another album more than And It's Still Alright

As a huge fan of his prior work with the Night Sweats, the announcement of their third LP, The Future, left me in a state of anticipation and nervousness. Clearly, Rateliff wanted the opportunity to color in a different shade on that solo release. But now that he was bringing the band back, it was a question of whether they could maintain the level of quality exhibited on their previous two releases, and what about the overall sound? Would it shape up more as revival soul or folk singer-songwriter? The answer quickly reveals itself as "yes." 

The opening title track is unmistakably Bob Dylan-like, and best exemplifies the melding of indie folk and throwback R&B juice that makes The Future a perfect summation of Rateliff's career to this point. The vocal inflection in the verses nods to the master of one genre while the goosebump-inducing howls in the chorus speak to the full-band exuberance that brought Rateliff to prominence. The rest of the album dances between the two, albeit on more of a song by song basis than the dichotomy of that opening track. Aptly named, if this is The Future for Rateliff, sign me up. And have it include a trip back to Milwaukee with the full band in tow.