Nathaniel Rateliff sings the following lyrics on In Memory Of Loss’s third song, “We Never Win.”
Like an old time revival
Shake your hands
And shake your hips
Put up all my armor
Let me stand bare
With just two fists
That about sums up Nathaniel Rateliff for me. Like the lyrics say, he’s a revivalist. His sound is a blend of jazz, gospel, and folk music that is sparse and heartbreaking. His voice is powerful, defiant, warm, and delivers stunning lyrics that cut like a knife. And you all know how I feel about songwriting by now. I find myself obsessed with In Memory Of Loss. Not the type of obsession that has me listening to the album on repeat, but the type that has me stopping songs, rewinding, and listening to lines over again.
Nowhere was this obsession more evident than in “You Should Have Seen The Other Guy,” a slow, tender ballad about a violent fist and knife fight.
When we get out of this fight
You’re gonna help me wrap my hands
I’m stitching up my eyes
You know that blood can blind
And them was big old boys
Had fists like cinder and stone
I dodged a blade on a dime
And they was out to cut my throat
Rateliff’s music often contradicts his storytelling, telling tales of despair with warmth and occasionally toe-tapping arrangements (Whimper and Wail). While In Memory Of Loss is fresh and unique, these songs would fit nicely on the back of a wagon in a dustbowl, in a speakeasy during prohibition, or lost in the backwoods of his native Missouri. The stories will resonate in any era with desperate characters at the end of their rope, ready to fight with their last ounce of will. Standing bare with just two fists.
Video: Nathaniel Rateliff – Brakeman
Video: Nathaniel Rateliff – You Should Have Seen The Other Guy