The day that Nathaniel Rateliff signed his contract with Stax will probably stick with him forever, considering the significance that the music label has for him. The Denver native, either under his own name or with his band The Night Sweats, has always been the perfect ambassador for sweltering, Southern soul music, much like that which was created in the legendary Memphis studio at the end of the 1960s.
Yet with this album And It’s Still Alright, he seems to have switched entirely away from soul, instead aiming for a more introspective folk sound. Dedicated to his friend Richard Swift who had worked with him on his Night Sweats albums and who passed away in 2018, this solo album, his first for seven years, touches on themes of loss and perseverance. Rateliff’s voice is impressive in the way it plays on these nuance but manages to avoid becoming overly plaintive.
“I think I always want to see hope in the darkness, and I like to try to share that… I always try to write from a perspective of trying to approach everything very honestly, even if it leaves me vulnerable. But overall, it’s almost like I’m a different character when I’m writing for myself. I think this album is a reminder that we all go through hardship, but regardless of the hardship everything ends up where it’s supposed to.”
The recording process would also prove to be a highly emotional process as Nathaniel Rateliff returned to Richard Swift’s studio, National Freedom at Cottage Grove in Oregon, joined by two co-producers, Patrick Meese (Night Sweats drummer) and James Barone (Beach House drummer). Conceived with the additional help of Tom Hagerman (a violinist with DeVotchKa), Luke Mossman (guitarist from The Night Sweats), Elijah Thomson (a bassist from band Everest), Daniel Creamer (keyboards in Texas Gentlemen) and Eric Swanson (pedal-steel guitarist for Israel Nash), And It’s Still Alright sheds a new light on this soul singer that certain fans will not have expected.