WeedMZ: Keefer Reviews Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats “Tearing at the Seams”

Second albums can be a dicey proposition when following a wildly successful debut. The pressure, the hype. Is there a hit? First things first, there’s no S.O.B. on this record. S.O.B., always more Blues Brothers than Otis Redding, was one of those songs that could turn a lesser artist into a one-hit wonder. Despite being terrific though, it was near novelty, a jaunty soul stomper about the ravages of alcoholism.  In an interview with The Sun, Rateliff wasn’t even sure he wanted it on the first album. But it was an obvious crowd pleaser live and it’s inclusion was the gateway to a widely enjoyable debut. That said, Tearing At The Seams is a better record. More compelling, more commanding.

Toughened by near non-stop touring, the Nightsweats are tighter, but never too tight to sacrifice the groove. The songwriting advances, it is more personal (there are hints of Rateliff’s marriage breakup), tackling themes of love, loss, and the grind of daily life. And while familiar influences are abundant, these guys play the truest form of 60’s soul of all of their contemporaries, there’s also nods to Rateliff’s past music and signs the band is taking a genre and putting its own stamp on it.

Here are some of the highlights:

Intro– An oddly titled song to bury halfway into an album. If you’ve seen the Nightsweats in the last year or so, this one has been used as a show opener. The kind of funk rocker that James Brown would have taken the stage to.

Shoe Boot-First song on the album, a rocksteady drum beat is joined by a rumbling bassline before a chorus of boozy horns rolls into a Memphis soul stew, born from a studio jam.

Hey Mama – The jewel of the set. Country soul, side 2 of Exile On Main Street territory. It’s a conversation between mother and son where she warns the boy “Better start acting like this here’s a race / You ain’t gone far enough to say at least I tried / You ain’t worked hard enough to say, well, I’ve done mine.”

You Worry Me – The bookend to Hey Mama? Rateliff appears to pick up the gauntlet laid down and starts “acting like this here’s a race” and “leave it all out there”. The most modern sounding song on Tearing At The Seams.

Still Out There Running – With a nod to his singer-songwriter roots, the band takes the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane and slows it down to a lament on love lost.

Tearing At The Seams – With a bit of A Change is Gonna Come vibe, a soaring ballad reminding that things can always all apart.

I’ll Be Damned – From the deluxe version, it’s a stomper from his Born In The Flood days, now with horns.