- 05 Apr 18
Roots rock heroes deliver the goods.
Country-rock genius/waster Gram Parsons was wont, in his infrequent moments of clarity, to bang on about the idea of a “cosmic American music”, a melding of all the melodious genres and euphonious genera the US has given the world - country, soul, blues, rock, gospel, and folk. You could apply that appellation to many: The Stones, The Band, Little Feat, Springsteen, The Black Crowes. Nathaniel Rateliff is but the latest.
Their second album – Rateliff took some early, folky missteps as a solo artist – puts walls on the foundation laid by the eponymous debut from 2015, which included the fair-sized hit ‘S.O.B.’. There are Motownish love songs (‘Be There’), rocking pop (‘A Little Honey’, ‘Say It Louder’), and even a bass throb reminiscent of the eighties (single ‘You Worry Me’).
It’s all good, but if forced to pick highlights, I’ll plump for the Georgie Fame-style mod R&B of ‘Baby I Lost My Way’, the Northern Soul rug-cutting prompter ‘Intro’, or the Stones-do-country of ‘Hey Mama’. When the (Memphis) horns kick in, it’s easy to see why Rateliff is signed to no less an institution than the resurgent Stax Records. Best of all though is opener ‘Shoe Boot’, a near-perfect New Orleans groove of the type that Dr. John was cooking up around the time of 1971’s The Sun, Moon & Herbs. The late Allen Toussaint would nod approvingly at the brass-driven arrangement, and the organ rolls in like something sweet poured over ice.
There’s no wheel-reinventing going on, but wheels work fine just the way they are. It’s the kind of custom-built delight that’ll sound even better live. A tip of the tam to the cat in the hat.