Currently in the fourth decade of his career, Willie Nile has opened on the Who's 1982 tour, guested onstage with Springsteen and counts a who's who of musical luminaries as fans including Bono, Paul Simon, Little Steven and Lucinda Williams. Nile's latest, World War Willie, hits record stores on April 1 and showcases Nile's gritty guitar work and sharp songwriting that is all at once humorous, insightful and timely.
Recorded with longtime producer Stewart Lerman and Nile's longstanding band — Matt Hogan on lead guitar, Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums — with additional guitar from Steuart Smith (Eagles, Rosanne Cash) there’s an incredible uncorked energy to the album beginning with opening track “Forever Wild” which extols the virtues of being young and free (which sounds relevant here coming from 67-year-old Nile rather than a 20-something who hasn’t fully experienced life).
“Grandpa Rocks” is a humorous, head banger (in the best way possible) about well, himself - a rocker whose age doesn’t slow him down no matter whatever title he has (Nile has four grandchildren). “He ain’t quite ready for the pine top box……He loves his woman, he’s an old grey fox.” The tongue in cheek humor and word play continue on “World War Willie” calling out various paramours, but pointedly noting “I know a woman on the east coast……She’s the one I like the best/that’s why I have to move out west” and the clever "Citibank Nile."
World War Willie is balanced by Nile's innate ability to showcase the poignant and serious alongside that playfulness. "Let's All Come Together" is a timely call for unity to make the world a better place (with a raise your glass in unison chorus) while “Runaway Girl” is a straight up touching ballad about a “two dream girl in a one horse town/they can’t lock you up and they can’t break you down”; “Trouble Down in Diamond Town” paints a Bonnie and Clyde vignette so vividly you can see it play out as you listen and the sincerely romantic “Beautiful You” simply melts. The collection is rounded out with “When Levon Sings” a heartfelt tribute to Levon Helm and closing track, Nile’s rendition of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
Long live rock and roll. And long live Willie Nile.