February 1, 2014
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
7:30pm doors, 8:30pm show, $15 adv, $18 dos
Anyone who’s paid attention to his recent output knows that Willie Nile is currently in the midst of a creative renaissance that’s produced some of the most compelling music of his 35-year career. The tradition continues with his album American Ride, released on June 25, 2013 on Loud & Proud Records, where Nile becomes the first artist released under the label’s new deal with RED Distribution.
Originally set to be released independently following a resounding PledgeMusic.com campaign, Loud & Proud president Tom Lipsky heard the album and approached Nile, who has not had major-label distribution since 1991.
“This is the moment that Willie has been working toward his entire career,” says Lipsky. “He has enjoyed the admiration of the artist community and media for many years. American Ride, the song and the album, truly define him and his vision as an artist. Now, in partnership with Loud & Proud, it is time for the public to become involved with Willie. We look forward to helping him bring his music and his stories to fans around the world.”
The timeless qualities of melodic craft, lyrical insight and emotional engagement that have endeared Nile to listeners around the world are prominent on American Ride, which ranks among the most powerful and personally charged work of his three-and-a-half-decade recording career.
“It’s pretty rockin’ over all, but there are some left turns and right turns along the way,” Nile says of the album, which was fan-funded through Pledgemusic.com. “There are songs about the rights of man, songs about freedom, songs about love and hate, songs about loss, songs about God and the absence of God, and songs about standing up for your fellow man. It’s upbeat and full of life. I’m thrilled with how it came out.”
American Ride offers a bracing set of 11 original compositions, and one well-chosen cover, that rank with the catchiest and most vivid music that Nile’s ever delivered. From the everyday wisdom of “Life on Bleecker Street” and “Sunrise in New York City” to the broader observations of “This Is Our Time” and “Holy War” to the rock ’n’ roll abandon of “Say Hey” and the road-tripping title track, the album consistently lives up to the artist’s reputation for writing songs that are as impassioned as they are infectious, and performing them with the fervor of a true believer. Several of American Ride’s recurring themes come into focus on the last two songs, “The Crossing” and “There’s No Place Like Home,” which end the album on a note of humanistic uplift. Another highlight is a fiery reading of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” recorded as a tribute to both Carroll, who passed away in 2009, and to Nile’s late brother John.
American Ride features backup from Nile’s live band — guitarist Matt Hogan, bassist Johnny Pisano, drummer Alex Alexander, and Nile on guitar and piano — along with guest appearances by Eagles’ guitarist Steuart and New York singer-songwriters James Maddock and Leslie Mendelson. Nile also worked with some notable songwriting collaborators, including Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, who co-wrote “God Laughs”; The Alarm’s Mike Peters, who contributed to the title number; and Nile’s frequent writing partner Frankie Lee, who co-wrote four tracks. The producers were team of Grammy-winner Stewart Lerman and Nile himself, with additional production by Pisano and Alexander.