BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
With American Ride, Willie Nile ascends to the uppermost tier of the most revered American musicians and esteemed populist pundits, an elite and exclusive circle of venerable troubadours whose numbers include Springsteen, Dylan, Fogerty, Petty and Mellencamp. Truth be told, Nile earned that status decades ago — some 33 years previous in fact — when he was wooed by major record companies in response to an exceptional early promise. But now, long after the luster of a music label association vanished, he still proves his worthiness, not by falling back on earlier glories, but rather by plowing forward with songs that enhance and expand those seminal efforts while remaining true to his muse.
While recent albums – Streets of New York, House of a Thousand Guitars, et al – have positioned him at that peak, American Ride emerges as his signature statement of sorts, a rollicking, robust rallying cry of anthemic proportions. It’s not only a celebration of his native New York, but rather, more precisely, a salute to those who prosper and persevere on the mean streets of Manhattan. At their core, these are songs of sheer celebration and tenacity, be it the rousing, riveting, fist-pumping, air guitar-flailing shout-out of “This Is Our Time,” If Ever I See the Light,” and “Say Hey,” or the quiet and contemplative musings of “The Crossing” and “There’s No Place Like Home.”
Even a presumptive ode to the dearly departed, Nile’s irrepressible take on Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” helps maintain this determined delivery, given that it’s an unabashed ode to heroism, humanity and commitment. Ultimately American Ride resounds like a victory cry – urgent, enduring and unfailingly affecting.
DOWNLOAD: “This Is Our Time,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Say Hey”