Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats – Eponymous

nrns

 

Listening to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats record, I’m carried back in time. Not quite as far as the music that is reflected in their sound, but soon after, in the age of banana-seat bikes strewn across the front lawns of suburban neighborhoods.

When I was about nine, my mom gave me a few Elvis Presley cassettes and one of those rectangular tape recorders with a single speaker and buttons bigger than my damn fingers. Even in the late 70’s, this thing was an antique. For several months, I immersed myself in the 1969 version of Presley, who was reaching for songs that filled his desire to take on a more soulful persona. The end result was an output that included the spectacular “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.” The latter single being Presley’s last number 1 before his death in 1977.

Now while Rateliff’s label is the legendary STAX, and he certainly has steeped himself in their historical sound, he is more than a little reminiscent of the blue-eyed soul that became popular in the late 60’s. Van Morrison clearly comes to mind on “Wasting Time” and Rod Stewart’s output with the Jeff Beck Group is evident on “Trying So Hard Not To Know.” However, Rateliff is far grittier and less ethereal than that. His themes are far more relatable than Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” and hold a more universal appeal to fans of Memphis soul. That said, it would be hard to picture Stewart or Morrison dropping a line like “this shit don’t run well / it’s burned out as hell / and it’s trying so hard not know.”

To a certain degree this record is a bit of a time capsule. You wouldn’t be wrong if you suggested that the ghost of Sam Cooke was whispering into Rateliff’s ear during the recording of “Howling at Nothing” as Rateliff’s vocal phrasing is similar to the classic “You Send Me.” Then  you have his band that often come out with songs sounding as if they studied with Booker T & the MG’s.

Which brings me back to Presley…

It takes a special kind of musician to evoke a slew of soul greats and retain an energy and sound that is still their own. Springsteen did this by mixing Dylan, a preacher style intensity towards rock ‘n’ roll, a few classic soul influences, and concocted a sound all his own. Nathaniel Rateliff has taken the ’69 comeback version of Elvis, added southern rock themes and walked into a STAX studio to create a record that is instantly relatable. Of course, you would never have caught “the King” singing “son of a bitch / give me a drink” as Rateliff does on “S.O.B”. It just wouldn’t have been very, um… regal.

You may have heard the kind of sound this album produces earlier in your life, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound anything less than awesome in the present. Hell, I bet this record would even sound good off of a crappy one speaker cassette recorder… not that I have one handy…

 

Not Afraid To Run With The Bulls or Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves

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Sometimes it’s just best to drop the whole genre tag and just say: “dude, it’s rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.” Langhorne Slim has elements of country, folk, soul and alt rock flowing through the speakers all at once, and like a good mixed drink, the end result is finer than any individual part. Slim boasts “I’m tough enough to run with the bulls,” and while my use of the metaphor is out of context with the songs, it does describe his song writing.

Slim is a bit of an eclectic master with themes of joy and misery intermingling with equal passion. Essentially, he is fearless in bending songs around multiple influences. Horns play on a number of tracks and in a different way each time. On “Spirit Moves” he uses them as a counter melody similar to Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring Of Fire” and then brings them back later for “Life’s A Bell” as a Memphis Horns/Stax/Otis Redding tool for emotional emphasis. With the ever present acoustic instruments some songs drift towards sounds reminiscent of Nick Drake and Cat Stevens but the album as a whole pulls everything back into that unique Langhorne Slim vision.

The Spirit Moves is filled with moments that seem both intimate and celebratory, resulting in a record that gives inspiring highs and tragic lows. As the needle rises off of side B, you find yourself flipping it back to side A for another listen… and things can’t get much better than that.

You can pick up The Spirit Moves on all the usual mediums or order it direct from Dualtone with extra swag. Unfortunately, the coke bottle green vinyl seems to be sold out.

 

The New Old Soul or Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

Let’s be clear, Leon Bridges is not the second coming of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett; he is his own singer/songwriter that has chosen to play music in a style that is familiar to fans of 60’s R&B coming out of Memphis. He’s good… really damn good, but to stand beside the Soul gods, you need more than one record of gospel inspired glory.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Bridges isn’t shooting for the stars. His music isn’t just inspired by Memphis but actually seems to embody the sound. His peer group may include contemporaries like Nick Waterhouse and Raphael Saadiq, but Bridges’ ups the game of capturing old-school R&B by pulling in music that could’ve been created by the Blues Brothers Band. He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home. In essence, Bridges is the ‘new old soul.’

The title track acts as both a mission statement and anchor to the unfolding of the album. “Coming Home” rolls out as a having an influence in doo wop, gospel and a soul flavoured pop  delivered in a voice rich with southern longing. “Better Man” pulls the laundry list of things one is willing to do to access forgiveness. The themes are classic across the board. Lust (“Brown Skinned Girl” & “Smooth Sailin”), faith (“Shine”), family (“Lisa Sawyer”) love (“Flowers”) and love lost (“Pull Away”) all mingle together in a familiar Stax like setting. There is even a little nod to soul legend Sam Cooke on the song “River” which starts with a Ben E King “Stand By Me” opening before drifting off into the classic storytelling that makes one search for spiritual meaning.

Coming Home is indeed a record steeped in the traditions of past musical glories; in following that path Leon Bridges may have begun a journey towards becoming a legend himself. Time will tell.

Coming Home will be released on June 23 on all the usual formats. For vinyl fans there is a lithograph bundle that can also be picked up.

Enjoy

Playlist March 22/15

Here is this weeks playlist. I will update the song stuff as I go.

March 22/15 Playlist

1. “Bottle Of Fur” – Urge Overkill

Saturation is one of my all time favorite records, which I am really wanting to find on vinyl, at a reasonable price…

2. “Three Women” – Jack White

Yeah yeah, Lazaretto, great record… not much more you can say.

3. “Freak Scene” – Dinosaur Jr.

From Bug, because Spotify doesn’t have Bug Live, “Freak Scene would kinda be considered the hit, if such a thing really existed for a cult classic. You can pick this up at some of the better record stores out and about, but the special purple splatter vinyl is sold out.

4. “In The Clear” – Foo Fighters

Great record that keeps finding its way onto my turntable.

5. “Born To Run (Live) – Bruce Springsteen

Did a write up on this a while back. Still think “Born to Run” is the perfect classic rock tune.

6. “20th Century Man” – The Kinks

7. “Everybody Makes A Mistake” – Otis Redding

8. “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix

This arrived from Newbury Comics last week. Sounds frickin great and is still available here.

9. “Witchy Woman” – Eagles

10. “Can’t Feel My Soul” – Teenage Fanclub

11. “Do You” – Spoon

12. “Crestfallen” – Pernice Brothers

13. “Neither Here Nor There” – Sloan

14. “A Very Sorry Christmas” – The New Medicants

15. “Things” – Paul Westerberg

16. “Crazy For You” – The Dirtbombs

Such an awesome sound on this band, just had to get a couple of their records. Listen and you might agree. If you do click here.

17. “Wild Eyes” – Vivian Girls

Couple years ago I was listening to these guys and thinking how great they were. Finally picked some up on vinyl.

18. “I’m Shy” – The Juliana Hatfield Three

What I said just a few days ago.

19. “Willow” – Said The Whale

20. “Kitsch Trick” – The Seasons

 

Remember that great classic record… that never happened – The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding: Lonely & Blue

A number of years ago I stood in front of a very large glass case. Wreckage from a plane and a name on the wall beside it was the sheer bullshit that the rock hall had displayed… as if this was some kind of legacy worthy of the talent that had been Otis Redding.

As I looked around this Cleveland cathedral there was no explanation as to who he was and why he was in the hall of fame. The man who had put the mighty Stax on his back and commanded that you listen; the soul king who had the greatest band, Booker T & the MG’s as his own personal musicians in the studio; this giant who was arguably the strongest voice to emerge out of soul music’s greatest era (that saw the height of careers such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and James Brown); was reduced to a ridiculous display without context.

Message to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame…

If you are going to reflect on the legacy of a music “god”, you don’t create a display – “YOU BUILD A MOTHER FUCKIN’ ALTAR! SHRINE! & PYRAMID!”

Keeping that in mind, how would you create a new record worthy of that legacy?

Somehow the people at Stax records have managed just that… well, sort of.

otislb

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B009A87VW8/ref=s9_simh_gw_p15_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1JWAS4V7MX5GJ846RN77&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1949527442&pf_rd_i=915398

Obviously Lonely &Blue is a compilation of previously released material, but wow, it was done right. While being a new collection it looks like a record put out in 1966. This includes a back cover testimonial about the potency of Redding written by the fictional Marty Hackman at WDHG Detroit and overall cover artwork that has the appearance of  ‘record wear’ and stains.

The music itself is made up of Redding’s more ‘heart breaking’ material. Some of the songs are his more famous hits like “These Arms of Mine” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)”, but of far more interest (to me) was the inclusion of lesser known tracks like “Waste of Time” and “Everybody Makes A Mistake” which had not been included in the 1993 Definitive Box Set. While playing a rather sad tone throughout the entire record, it also displays the emotional depth that Redding seemed to tap with ease.

In addition to the great music, Lonely & Blue was put together with the turntable in mind. Once you open the vintage style package you find yourself looking at a beautiful piece of blue translucent vinyl.

This compilation isn’t just a great introduction into Otis Redding, but it also stands out as a wonderful exploration into his well mined theme of sorrow. So grab a glass of red wine, turn the lights low, and let a genuine soul Titan take you away to another time and place… that seems very familiar all the same.