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Nathaniel Rateliff has written and recorded his first solo record since the explosive debut of his work together with The Night Sweats. And It's Still Alright is an intensely personal 10-song album of vibrant country-blues, Badland ballads, ornate Americana and jazz-inflected R&B. Rateliff's warm baritone, ranging from gently hushed to a guttural howl, imbues these superbly drawn character studies with raw, naked emotion.
And It's Still Alright was produced by Rateliff, Night Sweats' drummer Patrick Meese and James Barone of the indie band, Beach House and primarily recorded at National Freedom in Cottage Grove, OR, the studio formerly owned by the late Richard Swift. While Rateliff, Meese and Barone handled much of the album's instrumentation, several friends make contributions including Night Sweats' guitarist Luke Mossman; bassist Elijah Thomson (of the indie band Everest); keyboardist Daniel Creamer (of The Texas Gentlemen); steel guitarist Eric Swanson (touring musician for Israel Nash) and renowned string arranger Tom Hagerman (of the instrumental vocal ensemble DeVotchKa), whose delicate orchestrations beautifully complement the album's deep emotional terrain.
The feel of the new record, for which Rateliff had been focusing on an unraveling relationship, took a different turn in July 2018 with the death of Swift. His longtime friend and producer of the two hugely-acclaimed albums by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats thus gave poignant inspiration to these ten new songs, on which, now in his solo voice, Rateliff wears his grief and doubt on his sleeve, but always retains a sense of optimism. The tracks are quieter and more reflective than the exuberant soul with which the Night Sweats made their name, but have the same urgency and indelible appeal, exploring themes of love, loss and perseverance.
The title cut, written by Rateliff specifically about Swift, exudes a haunting grace and acceptance. Additional highlights come in the form of album opener "What A Drag," which sketches a vivid portrait of a disconnected relationship, "Tonight #2," a haunting, end-of-the-world waltz, "Time Stands," detailing an epic, desperate struggle for love and the elegiac "Rush On," a heart-breaking requiem for Swift. Unguarded and unflinchingly real, And It's Still Alright expands on the sounds and styles he's used to great affect across both his band and solo careers. It's a commanding next step in Rateliff's evolution into one of America's most vital and essential songwriters.