When you think of the good ol’ USA and start to muse on the hotbeds of music over the years, the names of the famous music cities start to drift through the psyche as a misty-eyed reverence pulls you towards them. You ponder all the greats that have emanated from the fabled places like Detroit, New Orleans, Nashville, LA, New York, Chicago and Denver. Denver? Well, it did produce Earth, Wind and Fire singer Philip Bailey and one or two others but that’s about it really (sorry Denver!). That may be all about to change with the release of the excellent ‘Tearing at the Seams’.
Twenty-nine-year-old Nathaniel Rateliff may have been born in St Louis, but Denver has been his home since he was 18 and where he started to make his musical name, so Denver has rightly claimed him as one of their own.
He first started coming to local prominence with his original band Born in the Flood before morphing into Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel, with his latest reincarnation Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats being formed in 2013.
Those chameleon like changes in name are reflected in his changing musical styles too, from the folksy, more sparse arrangements to be found on his 2010 album ‘Memory of Loss’ to the current album ‘Tearing at the Seams’ where with a new 7 piece band, he lets rip with a funky soul based sound that is clearly rooted in the 60’s. They even manage to sprinkle echoes of Motown in there for good measure on tracks like ‘Be There’.
The pace eases somewhat with ‘Hey Mama’ and ‘Still Out There Running’ and on first listen it seems as if they don’t fit the driving vibe so evident on the rest of the album, but they do provide a welcome break from the high energy, horn driven mixes that propels the rest of the music along so well.
The band is tight, and the arrangements leave you in no doubt that the revamped Stax Records is the spiritual home for the soulful core that is ‘Tearing at the Seams’.
This is immensely agreeable, uninhibited foot-tapping music that should have you bopping along to the punchy rhythms that make this album such an enjoyable surprise. If he can keep this up, then perhaps Denver will eventually end up on the music city map of the good ol’ USA after all!
60’s soul reinvented for the 21st century.