I sawÂ The Wheel open forÂ Laura Marling last month, and were there actually enough space to permit me being knocked on my ass, I would have been splayed out on the ground about a minute into their set. Lead singer Nathaniel Rateliff has one of the most powerful and affecting male voices that I’ve heard in a long while. He can be real quiet, low and grumbling. He can be sweet, lilting, almostÂ Bon Iver-y.
But what really gets me is when he reaches down into himself: beyond the vibrating vocal chords and the bleeding heart, past the lungs taking desperate gulps of hot air, right down into the pit of his hollowed-out stomach. Then he shuts his eyes against the loud haunt of his own voice, and he justÂ bellows. It echoes inside his mouth, tumbling out in a raw rush before colliding, absorbing itself into anyone lucky enough to be within earshot. But Nathaniel RateliffÂ booms, so in this case, the term “earshot” has a prettyÂ sizableÂ radius.
Rateliff’s upcoming solo album,Â In Memory of Loss, will be released on April 27th, and if its first released song “Early Spring Till” is any indication,Â Memory will be another notch in what is fast becoming an impressive musical belt. “Early Spring Till” isn’t really sparse, but it’s certainly not overcrowded either. Instead, it feelsÂ decidedly whole,Â featuring that gale-force howl of his, resonate harmonies and atmospheric electric guitar strums tip-toeing around the song’s edge.
Nathaniel Rateliff’s music is sad and slow and makes me feel like if he didn’t write these songs out, he just might collapse or implode or something equally destructive. And it’s this feeling of essentiality, this feeling that he reallyÂ needs this music, that keeps knocking me (space permitting) on my ass. So give it a listen. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself splayed out and overwhelmed on your bedroom floor while Nathaniel Rateliff just keeps surging from your speakers.
In Memory of Loss (2010)
Desire and Dissolving Men (2007)