„““There’s a lot going on in this world between the good, the bad and the in-between, and this album attempts to ride some of those horses,““ Willie Nile says of his memorably-titled new album World War Willie, due out April 8, 2016 on Blue Rose Records exclusively for Europe.
The dozen-song set lives up to Nile’s reputation as a world-class songwriter, a singularly energetic performer and a true rock ’n‘ roll believer. Currently in the fourth decade of a recording career that’s yielded a panoply of musical riches, the New York-bred artist is currently experiencing an exciting renaissance at a time when many of his contemporaries are winding down or giving up.
„“This past year has certainly been the busiest and most rewarding one yet, with so many satisfying shows and the completion of this new album,““ he states.
Indeed, 2015 saw Nile achieve a series of high-profile milestones. For instance, early in the year, Bruce Springsteen joined Willie and band to perform the Nile anthem „“One Guitar““ during a Light of Day benefit show in Asbury Park, N.J. A few months later, Nile was invited to sing with the Who and Springsteen at a Grammy/Musicares event honoring Pete Townshend in Manhattan’s Times Square. That summer, the Voice of America chose Nile’s composition „“This Is Our Time““ (from 2013’s American Ride) as the title and theme song of an event in Washington, D.C., in which Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke forcefully about empowering women.
American Ride became one of Nile’s most acclaimed releases to date, topping numerous critics‘ year-end best-of lists and being voted „“Best Rock Album of the Year““ by the Independent Music Awards.
World War Willie lives up to that standard with some of the most resonant songwriting and performances of Nile’s career. He recorded the album with longtime producer Stewart Lerman (Antony and the Johnsons, Loudon Wainwright III, Boardwalk Empire) and Nile’s longstanding band – Matt Hogan on lead guitar, Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums – with additional sterling guest guitar from Steuart Smith (Eagles, Rosanne Cash) on three tracks.
„“There’s a live feel to the tracks because we captured an actual performance on every one,““ Nile says. „“The band and I have done so many shows together that our instincts all seem to arrive at the same intersection at the same time. We all play and feel as one, and there’s an energy there that you can’t manufacture.““
World War Willie’s title and cover motif reflect the turbulent state of the world as seen through Nile’s eyes, with a characteristic blend of sincerity and humor.
„It’s a tough old world out there,“ he says, adding, „“The cover shot of me standing in front of an image of Dresden after it was bombed in World War II was taken at a club in Italy, outside of Verona. That riveting image of a world at war just spoke volumes to me about the human race. It left me speechless. What can you say about it that isn’t right there in front of you? Surely we can do better than this. For me rock ’n‘ roll, at its best, helps to make some sense of the world. There can be a redemptive quality in it. I guess it’s me trying to make some sense of the world with rock n roll. It also reminds me of the good old days at CBGB’s in NYC.“
World War Willie embodies the distinctive mix of urgency, introspection, idealism and self-effacing humor that’s long endeared Willie Nile to his admirers.
The opening track, „Forever Wild,“ pays tribute to the transformative power of rock ’n‘ roll, while the anthemic „Let’s All Come Together“ is a persuasive call for planetary unity, and „Trouble Down in Diamond Town“ is a prime example of Nile’s flair for cinematic storytelling. „Runaway Girl“ and „Beautiful You“ demonstrate the artist’s knack for intimate balladry. And „World War Willie,“ „Hell Yeah“ and „Citibank Nile“ demonstrate his knack for pointed, tongue-in-cheek humor. The playful „Grandpa Rocks,“ meanwhile, is a wickedly humorous declaration of longterm devotion to Nile’s chosen profession.
„I have four grandchildren,“ Nile notes. „It’s a total gas and I totally embrace it. Rock ’n‘ roll is rock ’n‘ roll, whether you’re 16 or 86. If it feels good and soothes the soul and gets the hips shakin‘ and gets the mind turnin‘, then you’ve got somethin‘ worth singin‘ about. I won’t be tied down by anybody else’s perception of what’s doable. Life it too short, and if Grandpa wants to rock, let him rock!“
Elsewhere on World War Willie, „When Levon Sings“ pays fond tribute to the musical and personal spirit of the Band’s Levon Helm, and Nile pays tribute to another departed icon with a bracing reading of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground classic „Sweet Jane.“ The latter track was inspired by a memorable meeting with Reed ten days prior to his death.
Reed was in good company among Willie Nile’s loyal fan base. That group includes the aforementioned Springsteen, with whom Nile’s guested onstage on several occasions, and Pete Townshend, who requested him as the opening act on the Who’s 1982 U.S. tour. The list of avowed Nile fans also encompasses Bono, Paul Simon, Ian Hunter, Graham Parker, Jim Jarmusch, Adam Duritz, Little Steven and Lucinda Williams, who remarked, „Willie Nile is a great artist. If there was any justice in this world, I’d be opening up for him instead of him for me.“
The critics agree. „USA Today“ described him as „a rocker’s rocker,“ and „The New Yorker“ dubbed him „one of the most brilliant singer-songwriters of the past thirty years.“ „The London Times“ called him „a man who embodies the true spirit of rock ’n‘ roll,“ while England’s „Uncut“ described him as „a one-man Clash“ and „New York’s unofficial poet laureate.“ And „The Morton Report“ praised him for „crossing the power of the Clash with the social consciousness of Woody Guthrie.“ Or, as „Blurt“ recently put it, „Nile remains at the high point of his career – living for every moment, tirelessly reminding the listener that all he’s ever really cared about is his undying passion for the music he both lives and loves … Exceptional release upon exceptional release – each packed with street-smart, original material – has kept pace with changing times and evolving tastes.“
Now, with World War Willie adding an exciting new chapter to his body of work, Willie Nile plans to continue doing what he’s always done: getting back out on the road and rocking.
„I’ve hit a good groove these days,“ he asserts. „I’m enjoying the writing, the recording and the live shows more than ever. This is what I was looking for when I first started my musical journey. I’m very grateful that I get to do what I love to do and as long as the fire burns I won’t be stopping any time soon.“