In today’s world of music, critics overuse the term “grass-roots” far too often, especially when describing folk artists. But in the case of Nathaniel Rateliff and his new album, Falling Faster than You Can Run, no better phrase exists. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Rateliff and his five-member band have done everything they possibly can to stray from the norms of today’s music making business. In an era where over-the-top productions and giant studios have become the new standard, Rateliff goes back to the basics. Much akin to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Rateliff and his band recorded the album in his makeshift home studio in Denver, isolated from the world. No fancy equipment, nothing but a handful of microphones, good old-fashioned nylon strings, and the rough, yet alluring voice of Nathaniel himself.
With a setup that would initially seem limiting, Rateliff excels through soft, strong melodies and powerful lyrics. In the opening track, “Still Trying,” he reminiscently sings of how “if you roll in it long enough, your shit won’t even smell” and later loudly proclaims, “I don’t know,” in a climactic dropout of the background music. The strong and steady repetition of this admission carries with it the perfect level of lyrical ambiguity in which the listener can both recognize Rateliff’s lonely isolation and still relate it to his or her own life.
The next few tracks follow the same pattern – they excel in similar fashion. From the proclamatory finale of “I Am” to the cautionary refrain of “Don’t Get Too Close,” Rateliff and company prove that true emotion and passion can still be found in the music of today – you just have to look a little harder. The middle of the album falters slightly after “Laborman” in staying on par with the standards set by the introduction and begins to plateau into decent, but not necessarily special folk tunes. However, it ends on a high note with the closing title track. With a solemn resolution, Rateliff closes out the album by urging the listener to “leave him alone” while he falls. But there is a silver lining, as he reassures whoever might be listening that he will be okay by claiming, “When I hit the ground, I’m gonna laugh out loud.”
The album dropped September 17th – the same day the band kicked off their tour opening for their friends and fellow Denver natives: The Lumineers. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend attending one of their shows. They proudly display the same emotion that drives the album, and do so with abandon – a treat that has recently become few and far in between.
by Andrew Turner