Nathaniel Rateliff’s new release Tearing at the Seams (Stax Records) has been topping the Americana Music Charts for a reason. Rateliff is one of those musicians whose music is on the brink of a national burst out, and if he’s already a household name in your home, it speaks to your impeccable taste, not to mention your trendsetting qualities. The combination of soul and edgy rhythms is intoxicating.
The band holed up together to write the songs and the demos off the beaten path in New Mexico and then headed north for the album to be produced by Richard Swift (Wilco, the Black Keys) in his studio on the property behind his house in Oregon. With songs this relatable and strong (yet somehow still poignant), rhythms this funky, and music this layered with guitar, horn, and saxophones, it’s no surprise that Stax Records, with its history in soul, has been backing Rateliff since 2015.
The music here is reminiscent of the 1970’s Band-era raw music, R & B, and country too, with Rateliff’s mesmerizing “Ben E. King-like” vocal qualities. In this era of buyer’s market songwriting, Rateliff has managed the impossible: a truly, defiantly original song. “Hey Mama” is a lyrical call and response interaction between mother and son, with Mama telling him how it is: “you ain’t gone far enough to say ‘at least I’ve tried,’ you ain’t worked hard enough to say ‘well I’ve done mine.” This kind of innovation is simply knock-down, bowl-me-over impressive.
“Shoe Boat” is a largely instrumental funk-driven song, with the combination of Mark Shusterman on organ, Andy Wild and Jeff Dazey on saxophones, with Scott Frock on trumpet, channeling greats like Clarence Clemmons and Merle Saunders without in any way being derivative. And then some of the songs are more musically heartfelt, like title track “Tearing at the Seams,” and “You Worry Me,” rendering this album a complete and balanced whole.
Check for Nathaniel Rateliff’s tour info and get your copy of Tearing at the Seams here.