Two decades into his performance career, and rural Midwestern singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff has crafted a notable series of releases and performances that identify him as one of Americana’s most earnest and soulful artists. Currently signed to Stax Records, the platinum-selling creator of five number-one Billboard Adult Alternative chart singles as the lead vocalist of Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats is best described as “a wounded prophet and weary seeker with a poetic genius and flickering faith.”
Quarantine-defined 2020 found Rateliff as busy as ever. He released five singles last year. Notable in that number is “And It’s Still Alright,” the title track from his sixth studio album. It’s described by The Current as a “classic, moving and emotional song that you can hang your hat on,” as part of an album of songs that The Guardian notes, “you can imagine people singing to each other without having the slightest idea what they’re singing, other than it feels so darned right.”
Such glowing praise has been par for the course for Rateliff of late. His crossover acclaim grew due to the 2015 hit “S.O.B.,” which, after a performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, led to the gold-selling status being achieved for his Stax label debut album Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. 2018 recording Tearing at the Seams followed thereafter and featured a deeper exploration into classic soul by the one-time alt-rocking and more plaintive singer-songwriter style artist.
However, it’s in a 2015 feature for The Guardian — before the more significant acclaim that leads him to the stage alongside Margo Price for CMT’s Crossroads — that paints the best, most accurately soulful picture of Rateliff. “When I was a kid, we weren’t really supposed to listen to secular music. But one day, I found a Led Zeppelin IV cassette tape in the garage, and it was just amazing-sounding music, not like anything I’d heard before. I remember thinking: ‘Well if God created music, why is his music in the church not as good as this?’”
Even deeper, he’s described as a “sturdy” and “steady” “bulwark.” The word “bulwark” provides a fascinating turn of phrase that should make Americana, soul, roots, and country traditionalists ultimately take note of Nathaniel Rateliff. The word means “a protective structure of stone or concrete; extends from shore into the water to prevent a beach from washing away.”
Nathaniel Rateliff protects music’s roots. As much as sounds evolve, artists like this one featured on the forthcoming CMT Crossroads ensure that they still retain their beloved essence.
CMT Crossroads: Nathaniel Rateliff & Margo Price premieres Friday, March 26th at 10p ET on CMT.