Nathaniel Rateliff’s deep voice and the weighty silence he puts between each word he sings gives the deceptive impression that he is a heavy dude that knows what he’s doing. But his lyrics tell a different story. He’s more the puzzled boy than the severe father, the Isaac more than Abraham on such songs as “A Lamb on the Stone” and “Longing and Losing”. He’s looking for peace of mind. The calmness in which he delivers his self-penned tunes suggests that he has found it, but Rateliff’s story is more profound. He understands the journey is more important than the destination. As the title of his debut disc on Rounder suggests, Rateliff concerns himself with the serious topic of how memory measures what we lose more than it recalls our dreams and such. He sings a quiet hallelujah to the road and boasts of his ability to fight against the vicissitudes of life. This isn’t quite folk, although the sound evokes early Dylan; and it ain’t even poetry, although there’s a suggestion of Cohen. The record is the sound of a man wrestling with his burdens in a creative fashion, with the help of an acoustic guitar and the backing of some friends on other ordinary instruments played with a strong passion. This style of music never goes out of style when done well, and Rateliff does the tradition proud.
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