World War Willie
River House Records
Feisty Rocker Delivers His Most Complete Album.
The New Yorker had already released 6 albums when I was due to interview him in 2009 prior to the tour which was promoting his game-changing album, House of a 1000 Guitars; yet I’d never heard of him. That night sticks in the memory because I was driving to the hotel when I received a message that Willie had been refused entry into the UK!
Shock! Horror! Who was this guy? Thankfully it was only a mistake with his work permit; but it necessitated an instant return to NY were the correct documents were waiting and he returned on the same airplane.
The interview took place the following week before he ripped the roof off The Cluny in Newcastle and I became smitten with the man and his music.
Much to my surprise the opening track, Forever Wild starts with a Springsteenesque piano and goes on to be hook laden, Rock and Roller that looks back on his (and our collective) youth via rose coloured spectacles – ‘Sixteen and crazy/we were ragged and free.’
This is followed by Let’s Come Together which is typical Willie Nile in as much as there is a ‘message’ about the world being a better place if everyone from the richest to the poorest work for a ‘better planet.’ It’s nowhere near as twee or preachy as it could be; as Willie firmly believes this to be the case; in an Angry Liberal kind of way.
I’ve played this album many times in the last couple of weeks and loved it instantly; but it took a few plays for me to recognise that Willie is nowhere near as angry or snarly as normal; and its predominantly down to the production by the man himself and Stewart Lehman. This is by far his most commercial album to date; with the title track World War Willie being a corking chug-along song name checking several of the singers ex-girlfriends in a humorous manner.
Never afraid to use a rhyme or a Rock and Roll cliché; Bad Boy takes us somewhere near Bob Segar territory and will surely be a fan favourite when played live at 100mph.
Speaking of live shows; Willie Nile is well worth queuing around the block to see; as he puts his life and soul into every single minute of every single song; and in Hell Yeah! he’s managed to do what very few songwriters can ever achieve; actually write a fist pumping, chorus shouting song. Okay many others have them in their sets; and a few have tried but they usually evolve by accident. This song on the other hand, has a rat-a-tat Rockabilly rhythm and a chorus that had me shouting out as I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel.
No one writes or sings a love song quite like Willie Nile; and on Beautiful You he cuts to the heart of his feelings like a stiletto through hot butter. Passion? This guy has enough for three men; and then some.
On Nile’s last couple of albums he’s vented his spleen for the poor and downtrodden (check out One Guitar!) and he’s on his high horse again here with Citibank Nile; where he inhabits a Corporate Bankers body for a day. The result is spell binding.
Favourite song? Phew; it’s a difficult choice; with ex-Punk Rocker Willie discovering his Country side on the ‘love song’ When Levon Sings; (obviously) about The Band drummer and all around nice guy Levon Helm. Regular readers will know that I like a good couplet or a line and here we get an immediate Top 10 entry with ‘When Lightning cracks, that’s Levon’s snare.’ Oooh; what a way to be remembered.
But my favourite; and the one I’ve played to everyone within earshot recently is…….Grandpa Rocks!
Who among us won’t like a blistering rocker that opens with ‘He wears black jeans and a Cl;ash t-shirt.’ ? He could be singing about me if I ‘played guitar with my amps turned up loud,’ but I just about tick every other line that Willie regales us with; including ‘I love a woman who’s an old grey fox!’ It’s fun and will make you sing, dance and smile in equal measures; which is surely what Rock and indeed Roll is all about; isn’t it?
Released April 1st 2016