Taking the Long Way Through the Fields with Nathaniel Rateliff
Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut. I didn’t know a thing about Nathaniel Rateliff when I got a message from a friend offering me a +1 spot for Tuesday night’s show. Google took me straight to nathanielrateliff.com, and after 30 seconds of watching the video posted on their website, I folded up my laptop and decided to trust her judgment.
The name of the band is Nathaniel Rateliff, but it’s also the name of the front man. The first thing that grabbed my attention was Rateliff’s voice. It was easy to get drawn into the vibe of this band just by listening to his voice. It booms, but at the same time, it sounds like it could crack. It’s strong, but also fragile. Amazing, and at times mesmerizing. As I was sorting out the intricate variations of Rateliff’s voice and the music supporting it, I started to really listen to the words themselves. Each song was telling a genuine story and all of a sudden, I was wrapped up in the lyrics. As much as I loved his voice, it was the song writing that won me over. The next day I listened to their album over and over, and was particularly drawn to the songs about fighting.
The band is the perfect fit for Rateliff’s song writing. They add density to the heavy lyrics and provide subtle harmonies alongside that unique voice. When they’re called upon to give the songs some bounce, images of driving the back roads in a dusty pickup truck are conjured. With windows down, of course.
Off Broadway was about as empty as I’ve ever seen it that night. The crowd was still and seated at tables, but everyone was there to listen. Rateliff quipped that they had about 15 more slow songs before they played their fast ones, but I’m pretty sure everyone was perfectly content with the easy pace.
At one point, Rateliff said that he probably knew half the people there. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but as I read up the next day, I discovered he’s from a small town called Bay… Bay, Missouri! When I say small, I mean a population of a 60. The nearest familiar place for most is Hermann, but it’s closer to towns with names like Freedom, Rosebud, and Bland. He’s based out of Denver now, but his songs are very much rooted in rolling the rolling hay fields that make up the landscape of that part of our state. That’s why I felt the instant connection to their music on Tuesday night. The dots were connected.
My advice to you? The next time someone offers you a free ticket to a see a band you know nothing about, take the chance. You might just walk out of that venue with a new favorite album in your hands.