Willie Nile – The Day The Earth Stood Still
I’ve followed veteran NYC rocker Willie Nile’s career since 1980. His major-label work was like what Tom Waits would’ve done if Tom was a New Yorker. It had the R&R deviancy of Lou Reed, drive of Springsteen, grit of Chuck E. Weiss, & a pop-punk stab similar to Graham Parker that tantalized.
By “Golden Down,” (1981) Willie leaned more toward Willy DeVille & maintained his downtown street cred. He may not have had an aggressive Jim Morrison-type vocal, but there’s no denying the expressive venom Nile possessed.
By “Places I Have Never Been,” Nile (electric/acoustic guitars, piano) had played with some distinguished musicians: the Hooters’ (Rob Hyman, Eric Bazilian), Richard Thompson, Roger McGuinn, The Roches, Loudon Wainwright III, members of the Patti Smith Group & Television, even Jakob Dylan.
Willie’s career’s been consistent despite some bumps. He never became the fireworks Springsteen was, but Nile was a boxful of M-80s. His material has been sharp through the years whether plaintive or sizzling. He always provides grace & power. He’s sung about the underbelly of the city & its pavement relationships. He has a special quality of sincerity with nothing bombastic or garnered as filler. He explores cliched areas nostalgically (“Off My Medication”). This could be a great song for The Stones to cover. With its rousing punkish/garage rock Chuck Berry incendiary arrangement. Not lame by a long shot.
He dips a finger into the past with his straight-ahead approach. But you can’t slight a man who skates by at 73 with musical flames, energy & quality like this. He may look like Keith Richards’ cousin – but Nile can still out rock any 20-year-old, vocally & physically.
His latest polished, personal & powerful 11-cut The Day The Earth Stood Still (River House Records-Drops Aug 13) is filled with brilliant songs, & literate lyrics. The Nile-soaked title track, the Springsteen-like “Sanctuary,” the short & sweet rocker superbly sung by Willie of “Where There’s a Willie There’s a Way.”
The Dylan-splashed “Blood On Your Hands,” is exceptional while The Clash-reggae rock of “Expect Change,” is of interest. One of Willie’s beautiful ballads “I Don’t Remember You” is a delight & “I Will Stand,” reaches deep into a potent inspired Billy Falcon style. Then to the soulful Garland Jeffreys grooves of the city in “Time To Be Great” — cool to the final beauty of “Way of the Heart” played by Frankie Lee (drums/tambourine/vocals), Stewart Smith (guitar), & Stewart Lerman (bass).
Nile survives. I’m glad he’s still firing up his R&R kiln. Musicians: Jimi K. Bones (electric/acoustic guitars/percussion/loops), Johnny Pisano (bass/vocals), Jon Weber (drums), Andy Burton (Hammond B3/piano/glockenspiel), James Maddock, Joe Crowley (backing vocals), & Marc Johnson (piano/tubular bells/glockenspiel/vocals).
Guest Steve Earle (vocal on “Blood On Your Hands”). This was a perfectly balanced & sequenced 40-minute CD recorded in Hoboken, NJ. B&W Nile image photographer: Cristina Arrigoni.
Produced by Stewart Lerman & Willie. Available @ Bandcamp & http://www.willienile.com/