Music Review: Willie Nile - American Ride

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Veteran rock and roller Wilie Nile’s latest album, American Ride, hit stores last month and quickly shot to number one on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart. That’s quite an accomplishment for an artist who’s been active since the mid-‘70s but relatively few have heard of. If you’re among the uninitiated, fear not. American Ride is a hook-driven set of 12 pop rockers that is instantly accessible.

At its best, American Ride sounds like a collection of lost fist-pumping arena classics. “This is Our Time” and “Life on Bleecker Street” make a killer one-two punch to open the record, each tune boasting a memorable, sing-along chorus. They’re working-class anthems, reaffirming that life is ours for the taking regardless of age or social status. “If I Ever See the Light” storms forth like some forgotten Springsteen epic, with Nile promising to “put his fist right through” that proverbial light should he ever witness it. A frenzied cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” climaxes the album, with Nile and his band rocking out with true conviction.

The topical “Holy War” misfires with clunky lyrics (“God is great, you suck!”) about Jihadists. Also touching on the almighty, albeit much more lightheartedly, is “God Laughs,” which humanizes the old man upstairs in a way that recalls Joan Osborne’s 1995 smash “One of Us.” “Say Hey” adds some rockabilly, while “The Crossing” calms things down for some Billy Joel-esque balladry. Speaking of the more melodic numbers, Nile affects the vocal mannerisms of Bob Dylan a little too closely on tracks like the title tune and “The Crossing.” But overall American Ride is a tuneful rock album with plenty of strong hooks, even if it loses some steam during its final third.

For more information about Willie Nile, visit his official website. American Ride was released by Loud & Proud Records. Three bonus tracks accompany the iTunes version.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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