Lucid Culture


CD Review: Willie Nile – House of a Thousand Guitars

This one makes a good segue with the just-reviewed Beefstock Recipes anthology. Willie Nile is New York through and through, having chronicled the darker side of this town from one end to the other in one memorable song after another over the last two decades and even before then. Onetime bearer of the curse of being “the next Dylan,” woefully misunderstood by a succession of big record labels who didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do with him, he resurrected his career in 1999 with his aptly titled Beautiful Wreck of the World cd and hasn’t looked back since. He may be a cult artist here, but in Europe he’s a star, consequently spending most of his road time there. House of a Thousand Guitars, his latest cd has everything he’s best known for: big anthemic hooks, smartly metaphor-laden lyrics, a socially aware worldview and the surrreal humor that finds its way into even his blackest, bleakest songs. Half of the cd was recorded with the ferocious live band who backed him for years and appeared on his most recent cd and dvd, Live from the Streets of New York; the other half features starker, often piano-based arrangements.


The title track makes a more upbeat take on what Leonard Cohen was doing with Tower of Song. Nile reminding that John Lee Hooker, alive or dead, will still kick your ass. He follows this with Run, a catchy powerpop anthem with characteristically searing, tasteful guitar from Mellencamp axeman Andy York. Track three, Doomsday Dance is laced with tongue-in-cheek black humor set to a fast backbeat


The inspiring, upbeat Love Is A Train is a feast of lush guitar textures, as is the next cut, Her Love Falls Like Rain, layers of acoustic and electric falling in beautifully jangly sheets. The piano ballad Now That the War Is Over is an older song that makes a welcome, apt addition here, a haunting, Richard Thompson-esque portrait of a damaged Iraq War veteran. It’s quite a contrast with the optimistic (and deliciously prophetic) riff-rocker Give Me Tomorrow, written right before the election, ablaze with surreal, metaphorical imagery.


The next track is another stomping riff-rocker, Magdalena, fondly known by some of Nile’s fan base as My Now-and-Later because back in the day – what was it, ten years ago? – when he debuted the song, that’s what the chorus sounded like (it actually has nothing to do with cheap candy). Other memorable tracks here include the big ballad Little Light (as in, “All I wanna see is a little light in this cold dark world), the elegiac Touch Me (a tribute in memory of Nile’s brother John) and what has become a requisite on every Willie Nile album, a big Irish ballad, this one titled The Midnight Rose, a fast number spiced with tasty barrelhouse piano. The cd wraps up with a characteristically indelible New York tableau, When The Last Light Goes Out On Broadway. In a year where it looks like New Yorkers are on the fast track to reclaiming the city from the hedge fund crowd and the gentrification that until the last few months or so threatened to destroy it, Nile couldn’t have timed this album any better.

April 22, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The guitars speak to you on this CD.
    On Magdalena at 2:54 min. you can hear the guitar saying “Isn;t that weird?”

    Comment by dj | April 23, 2009 | Reply

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