Review of Nathaniel Rateliff's Falling Faster Than You Can Run
by Chris Hess
In some parts of this world, Nathaniel Rateliff
is nearly a household name. In Denver, Colorado, performances by Mr. Rateliff and his band are the hot buzz on the street, events circled in deep red on calendars on the side of refrigerators. When a friend plays a Rateliff song for another friend, moments are stilled and ears listen. When Nathaniel Rateliff releases a new album almost by surprise, phones buzz and tweets chirp and conversations in the corners of coffee shops get a little louder.
Because, when it comes to Nathaniel Rateliff, his loyal fan base is used to not knowing when things are going to happen...but we know they will...and we can nearly taste them.
The world woke up to Falling Faster Than You Can Run
on September 17, three years after the release of Rateliff's full-length debut In Memory Of Loss
. With In Memory Of Loss
, the listening public was happy to finally have a Rateliff record—though legend has it that he had to be locked up in a studio by himself to get it done. And it felt that way. Beautiful, but isolated.
Rateliff out on his own, because that's how it had to be.
No one seemed to know Falling
was coming. There were whispers that it might be on the way, and then there it was. Definitely not isolated. Definitely not solo.
Indie folk-rock songs of tension and release. Relationship and running. The five-part harmonies of Rateliff & company's live show. The haunting guitar work of Joseph Pope III. The knowing and wise restraint of a band that knows each other (Rateliff and Pope plus Julie Davis on bass, Patrick Meese on drums, James Hahn on keys). It's not a party album, but it goes fine with drink.
It's a place we've been. At the bar or at the table. Staring through an empty glass you've made your way to the bottom of. Ready to fill it up and find the bottom again. Then—sometimes—a measure of resolve slides in. The decision to lace up your boots and put on your jacket. To walk out the door and keep walking.
The tone of this effort is the moment with the glass. The album is unpredictable in smart and welcome ways.
Not stuck in its own rut, not digging new ditches that keep filling in with loose soil. Familiar with echoes of advice handed down some time ago in fields of labor or early morning winter kitchens. The first half is thick with the lingering pain of past skirmishes—internal and external.
"And if you're rollin in it long enough, your shit won't even smell."
"I got plenty bones been chipped from falling down."
Near the listen's midway point, "Laborman"—unexpected rock and roll with nice hook—breaks the stride of the album a touch, almost thankfully. "How To Win" lets the listener catch their breath. The album then takes a turn toward fierce companionship.
"Nothing To Show For" is the emergency release valve of life's long walk. A bit of, "come on with me if you must, and we'll burn this down together" gives way to a new movement, gives entry to songs that beckon a companion, all the while sizing them up. Negotiation and desire. Falling Faster Than You Can Run delivers on all the levels loyal Rateliff followers can hope.
He sings songs made up of the familiarities we know and can't put words to. The sentences deep in our heart we can't always assemble. That could make this album THE album for Nathaniel Rateliff...if folk are willing to put down the glass and keep walking and let someone in on what they've found.
——— You can listen to or purchase
Falling Faster Than You Can Run here.
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