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Willie Nile



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Tributee: Bob Dylan.
If ever an artist didn't need a covers record, it's Bob Dylan. It's been done to death -- or so it would seem. Though Willie Nile comes by Dylan's influence honestly, the other side of his lineage comes from the punk and rock clubs of the Lower East Side during the late 1970s -- Max's Kansas City, CBGB's, et al.
Nile decided to cut this record after he performed "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and ''A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at a 75th birthday celebration for Dylan. He won the crowd, but the inspiration he originally got from those songs was renewed. There are few curve balls here; half this material appeared on the initial Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits volume. That's part of this album's beauty: Nile takes on tunes whose impact has been blunted by their ubiquitous presence, and pours gasoline on them. His takes are spirited and often swaggering, with a garage band aesthetic full of rock & roll heart.
The reading of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is classic Nile. Though there is an acoustic guitar, it's the razor-wire electric guitar riff and power chords, swirling Farfisa organ, and crackling snare that drive a double-time tempo that governs the urgency in its lyric. Further, Nile's singing is buoyed by a backing chorus as rowdy as the Pogues. He answers it with a slide guitar-driven roots rock "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," delivered as a bar-closing anthem with everybody on the stools chiming in for all they're worth. His version of "Blowin' in the Wind" is done by way of inspiration from the Ramones. When taking on "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Nile understands he doesn't have Mike Bloomfield. He compensates with a boogie-woogie, pumping Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano. Nile shows his sensitive side with a tender rendering of "I Want You," weaving a delicate mix of acoustic guitars, bass, and shuffling brushed snare. There's a world weariness in his gruff delivery that imbues the word "want" with new meaning as it stands in the loneliness of middle age. As delivered here, "Love Minus Zeus/No Limit" evidences that Nile remains completely enchanted with its lyric and melody; every syllable drips with a weathered and unadorned commitment. The Basement Tapes-era "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is tough to screw up, and Nile doesn't: this is the only overly restrained thing here. He adds a hard twist to "Every Grain of Sand" from Saved. It's not sung with reverence as originally recorded, but unmoored desperation. Closer "Abandoned Love" was kept in the vaults for years before seeing the light of day on a compilation. Nile's reading deftly reveals the Desire-era tune as an elegy: Its pain, regret, reverie, and resolve are borne by the ghost of love even as its protagonist carries on with relentless, restless forward motion. Dylan didn't need another covers record. Thankfully, Nile didn't give a damn and delivered one of the best. ~ Thom Jurek

  • Genre: Pop
  • RSD Release Date: DDD
  • Released: 06/23/2017
  • Format: Vinyl


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