As they proved so convincingly on their 2015 self-titled debut, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have clearly established themselves as heirs apparent to the fabled Stax sound, the music that gave birth such legendary soul stars as Booker T & the M.G.’s, Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, and Rufus Thomas, among the many notables. That’s a formidable legacy to live up to, but given the sheer tenacity demonstrated by their sophomore set, Rateliff and company are clearly equipped to take it on.
It comes as little surprise then that Tearing at the Seams lives up to its promise, a formidable set of songs that’s as bold and bracing as the title asserts. As before, Rateliff’s assertive singing is the obvious asset, but given the other elements in the equation, their craft and commitment are never in question. A bracing horn section, the critical keyboards and rock solid rhythms provide all the crucial components needed. From soulful, searing ballads like “Hey Mama” and “Babe I Know,” to the incisive sound of “Shoe Boot” and “Still Out There Running,” Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats imbue a contemporary imprint on a classic template. It’s one for the ages alright, and yet thoroughly in sync with a modern motif.
Soul music is a mostly forgotten art these days, having been supplanted by rap, hip hop and other morphed forms of R&B. It’s a pleasure then to find a band like the Night Sweats stepping up to the plate and attempting to reclaim and revitalize an archival approach that’s often swept aside. Tearing at the Seams is music of a vintage variety, expertly expressed, driven and determined. That creates a very rare dynamic, a delivery that’s both tenacious and timeless.