The Upshot: Long having shaken the “next Dylan” and “next Springsteen” labels, Nile continues to drop albums that fit seamlessly within the same playlist. Like great wine, he gets better with age.
BY BILL HOLMES
Let’s attack the elephant in the room right away – if the first twelve bars of “Forever Wild” don’t immediately trigger your brain’s Springsteen reflex, your synapses are way off. But where pale Boss mimics would continue painting by numbers – perhaps even inserting one too many uses of the word “mister” in the lyrics – Nile’s territory is sufficiently earmarked to permit the occasional audio misdirection. And coming on the heels of a mellower piano album, #World War Willie# finds Nile and his crack band confidently re-immersed in dynamic rock, effortless and heartfelt, soulful and spirited.
But within the cabinet-shakers are back-to-back gems – the pulsating “Beautiful You” and his ode to the late, great Band leader on “When Levon Sings”. Nile’s emotive vocals and sing-along choruses transform several songs into subliminal marching orders; when he commands “Let’s All Come Together”, we sign up without a second thought. And as always, a great cover tune is included, this time Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. Somehow I get the feeling that if Lou didn’t write this, Willie would have had to.
If there’s one nit to pick, it’s crowning great songs with sub-par titles. The Clash-like “Grandpa Rocks” is an ass-kicker saddled with a silly chorus, and although I understand the appropriate relationship, “Citibank Nile” is too blatant a lyrical stretch. The title track is an acoustic pile driver, but again…”things get rough / when your last name’s Nilly”? Thankfully the masterful “Trouble Down in Diamond Town” is a storyteller’s calling card.
Willie Nile, at 67, can still paint a picture with words and burn the house down from the stage. Savor it.
DOWNLOAD: “When Levon Sings”, “Forever Wild”, “Beautiful You”