On February 14th, 2020 Nathaniel Rateliff dropped an album which will leave tears in my eyes for the rest of the year. The Night Sweats leading man has had a hard time recently, dealing with divorce, the loss of his close friend and producer Richard Swift, and overcoming issues with alcohol. These topics are all taken on in the lyrics of the prevalent folk artist’s new solo release "And It’s Still Alright." It’s been generating a lot of buzz online and I’m sure there are others who still haven’t had the chance to sit down with the album. Here’s everything you need to know for when you finally do.
The album opens with “What a Drag” which eases you in with a pleasing opening melody. Listeners experience the sad lyrics right away so don’t be deceived by the sweet, simple melody. "What a Drag" is immediately followed by the title track, “And It’s Still Alright.” "And It's Still Alright" isn’t what you’d expect from a title track, but more on that later. In this song you’ll hear more of the gorgeous yet tragic lyrics Rateliff has penned. It’s a song anyone who has hit bottom can both relate to and find hope in. “All or Nothing” is another song which isn’t what it sounds like if you’re relying on the melody and instrumentals to guide you on the mood of the track overall. It starts out bright with rich bass sounds throughout that provide warmth. This happy sounding tune is on top of hot, angry lyrics practically spit at whoever the song is written for. If I had to guess, we have a bit of an ex-wife bash here. The fourth song on the album sounds the closest to Nathaniel Rateliff’s work with the Night Sweats. It’s another hopeful song and based on the lyrics I’d say it’s pretty likely Rateliff wrote this with Swift in mind.
“Tonight No. 2” means you’ve hit the halfway point in the album. It’s the only song I can confidently say you can skip. It has old country influences to its sound in all the wrong ways. Lyrically, it’s quite a forgettable song. Thankfully, not only is this the only thumbs down the album got from me, but the album also only gets more powerful from here. “Mavis” provides a sort of catharsis from the heaviness of the beginning of the album. It’s also preparing you for the heavy finale so go ahead and grab a box of tissues if you haven’t already. I’m having a hard time deciding if this song is about his ex-wife, Swift, or if it’s an introspective song and Rateliff is speaking to himself. Whatever or whoever the song is about anyone who listens is bound to apply it to someone close in their lives. “You Need Me” is a great transition from “Mavis.” It’s lighter in the beginning in both melody and lyrics. The lyrics get darker as the song goes on but the happy sound to the melody stays consistent. It’s also the first major allusion to Rateliff’s issue with alcohol. Out of all the tracks, I’d have to say this is my favorite song on the album followed closely by “Mavis.”
The last three songs of the album are when the waterworks can’t be avoided. I mentioned “Time Stand” earlier in relation to the albums title song. I’m feeling bold so I’m going to go as far as to say this should have been the albums title track. At the very least Rateliff could have released this one as a single. It’s way more defining to the theme of the album than “And It’s Still Alright.” Not to mention the gut punching lyrics, “I can take the pain but I can’t take all the hatred.” By far the saddest song on the album, “Kissing Our Friends” is short, sweet and obvious. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the songs sound and you’ll have no question in your mind what it’s about. It is worth noting that Rateliff’s rich voice is front and center in this song and this is where the song gets its strength. You’ll keep hearing the talent of his voice in “Rush On” when he practically wails and moans the lyrics. This song is the perfect closer with its funeral procession speed and sound. It’s pretty symbolic of the eventual end we all meet one day. An incredibly powerful end to a deep, raw album.
If this is what we should expect from Nathaniel Rateliff’s solo work from here on out, I’m all for it. It’s definitely the saddest album I’ve heard in a long time and I’m happy I experienced such powerful emotions in response to Rateliff’s songwriting and performance. Something also must be said for his expert album arrangement skills. I wouldn’t change the order of "And It’s Still Alright" for anything. This album is the musical equivalent of dark chocolate: dark and bittersweet.
Byline: Thora Hughes
A general studies major pursuing her undergraduate degree at Southeastern Louisiana
University, Thora Hughes dreams of one day working in a field relating to literature or
music. You might have heard her voice on Friday nights when she hosts KSLU’s only all
request love show, HeartBeats from 8-10 pm. During her time at KSLU she’s been a jack-of-
all trades working in production, content creation, social media management, and