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Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

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Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Old 09-26-10, 07:20 PM
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Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

In the spring, I bought the sum total output of Willie Nile musical career on CD, after hearing snippets on allmusic. I was blown away and ended up listening to his stuff over and over during the summer. Most of the comments I have read online compare him to Springsteen and Dylan, but I find his music sounds nothing like Springsteen's (it's more organic and less bombastic), and the most obvious point of comparison with Dylan is his voice, which is uncannily similar. However, Nile rocks with a lot more enthusiasm than Dylan.

Bottom line, he has rocketed up my list of favourite musicians to near the top. He has an almost unparalleled knack for catchy melodies and robust instrumentation (ringing guitars like there's no tomorrow), and I love his effective use of background vocals in many of his songs.
His latest album, House of a Thousand Guitars, from 2009, is probably in the top-five best albums I have ever heard. 12 cuts, no filler. The two best songs, I think, are the juggernaut ballad "Love is a Train" and the folky lament "Now That the War is Over".
Very closely following H.o.a.T.G. is his 1991 album, Places I Have Never Been, an equally consistent set that includes what may be his best song, the almost-perfect anthem "Yesterday's Dream".
Then there are the albums Streets of New York (2006) and Beautiful Wreck of the World (1999). All four of these are solid 5-star albums, in my opinion. Ironically, I find his lesser work to be his first two albums, Willie Nile (1980) and Golden Down (1981), though both also have a lot of merit, with songs like "Vagabond Moon" and "Golden Down". One of the problems with the early albums is the rather flimsy production. Places I Have Never Been is a quantum leap over those albums in terms of both production and song quality.

Anyone else like this guy? It goes without saying that he deserves to be more well-known, but I'm glad he's a secret among few fans.
Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot up on Youtube, but here's the excellent title song from H.o.a.T.G.:


One of my faves from P.I.H.N.B., the quirky and catchy "That's Enough for Me":


"Heaven Help the Lonely" from P.I.H.N.B (great stuff):


Title song from same:


"Vagabond Moon" from his debut:


"Game of Fools" from S.o.N.Y.:


Oh look, at the last minute I found the fantastic "Love is a Train". Love the rumbling backbeat and how it builds and builds in intensity. This is from H.o.a.T.G.:


If anyone likes what he/she hears, support the man and grab some of his CDS. You won't regret it. He's as consistent as they get.
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Old 09-27-10, 04:38 AM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

I love Vagabond Moon so much that that was actually me who posted it to YouTube
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Old 09-27-10, 02:21 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

All right! I figured you might check in, since we've crossed paths in Music before and seem to have similar tastes. What do you think about Nile generally? If you don't have it, his latest album is a must-have.
It appears no one else knows him/is interested, sadly.
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Old 09-27-10, 02:49 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

This is like a guarddog thread only in Music
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Old 09-27-10, 03:12 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Look, you guys, you can't just go posting all these videos all willy nilly!
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Old 09-27-10, 03:20 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by NORML54601 View Post
This is like a guarddog thread only in Music
Nanananabooboo!

Norm, to be honest I'm really only familiar with his debut. I need to listen to more including the vids you posted (I'll do when I can listen).
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Old 09-27-10, 04:15 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Look, you guys, you can't just go posting all these videos all willy nilly!
I've been pronouncing it wrong.
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Old 09-27-10, 04:26 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

After listening to several tracks, my simple evaluation is "meh". Seems like fair-to-middlin' rock, with a singer that is trying too hard to sound like Dylan (whether he consciously is or not I don't know, but he sounds like it). Sounds like the kind of band you'd hear at any local bar on a Saturday night. But to be fair, I'm not much into plain old rock 'n roll.
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Old 09-27-10, 05:02 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

I'm with Numanoid on this one. None of those tracks grabbed me. I'm no fan of Springsteen, but at least he has an energy you can't deny. This sounded flat to me, and the music faceless.
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Old 09-27-10, 05:33 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Interesting. Well, I appreciate the different takes. And who's guarddog, and why am I being compared to him?
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Old 09-27-10, 06:59 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

The very last thing I would describe this guy as is an "unparalleled knack for catchy melodies" being that everything that was posted was basically a rip on someone else's far superior knack for creating original melodies. That is some pretty bland music that sounds like a hollow imitation of his influences.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:06 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

^You removed the "to each his own". That was the only part of your post I was going to quote and echo.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:49 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Norm de Plume View Post
^You removed the "to each his own". That was the only part of your post I was going to quote and echo.
Oops, that was an accident, I just quickly edited out the line before it because I didn't want to criticize something to harshly that you clearly like. There is nothing wrong with liking bad music, (I like my fair share) but lets not get carried away calling it something it isn't. Claiming this guy "has unparalleled" catchy melodies is just ludicrous.
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Old 09-27-10, 08:20 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Sessa17 View Post
Oops, that was an accident, I just quickly edited out the line before it because I didn't want to criticize something to harshly that you clearly like.
Fair enough. That's appreciated.
There is nothing wrong with liking bad music, (I like my fair share)...
That's where I take exception and where "to each his own" comes in. I happen to love Nile's music. Words like "bad" and "good" don't really come into play with subjective appraisals. I have encountered you in another thread ("Post a song you love..."), and from that experience I'm almost certain we have fairly antithetical tastes in music (as opposed to atlantamoi, for instance).
...but lets not get carried away calling it something it isn't. Claiming this guy "has unparalleled" catchy melodies is just ludicrous.
I wrote "almost unparalleled", which is a bit different, and that's honestly how I feel. I don't have a huge collection of music, nor am I an authority on music, but out of the 500+ CDs I own, Nile's oeuvre is among the most solidly enjoyable. He may not be an innovator, but he writes tunes that are very pleasing to my ears.
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Old 09-27-10, 09:16 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Count me impressed.

I'm a huge Waterboys fan, and it sounds like he's working in a similar vibe with some similar influences. I was not familiar with him---think I'll pick up House of a Thousand Guitars.
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Old 09-27-10, 10:00 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Ky-Fi View Post
Count me impressed.

I'm a huge Waterboys fan, and it sounds like he's working in a similar vibe with some similar influences. I was not familiar with him---think I'll pick up House of a Thousand Guitars.
Fantastic! Just when I thought I was going a little loopy in the face of the negative and indifferent comments (which people are entitled to, of course, but I thought, "This can't be! Are we listening to the same music?").
Let us know what you think. I don't think you'll be disappointed. The only track I could do without - though it's not bad - is "Magdalena".
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Old 09-29-10, 06:52 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

I registered on this board just so I could respond to this thread.

I am a tremendous fan of Willie Nile! I find you can't fully appreciate him until you've seen him live. He is a real powerhouse of a live performer. He has a huge amount of energy on stage and radiates a strong love and enthusiasm for music. His concerts are among the best I've ever seen. Unfortunately (for me) he plays more shows in Europe (Italy, Spain and England) where he is better known than in the States.

I've talked to him after shows and he's a genuine, warm-hearted guy who honestly appreciates his fans, and humbly appreciates his place in the rock music world -- although not rich and famous, he's able to do what he loves and make a living at it.

He says that he considers himself a storyteller. His songs do tell stories, sometimes the kind with a plot, sometimes the kind that describe a feeling or a belief.

The comparison I would make is not with Springsteen, or with Dylan, but with the Guthrie family -- a little of Arlo and a little of Woody. I was introduced to Willie a couple of years ago when I heard his first two albums, and Willie's voice reminded me of Arlo. Where does Woody come in? Willie's not a folkie -- he's a rocker all the way -- but he believes music can change the world, just like Woody did. He has a song on his new record called "One Guitar," a song that's a direct spiritual descendent of Woody Guthrie's ideas.

His new record is called 'The Innocent Ones.' So far you can only get it in MP3 format but the CD will be coming out soon. For now you can get the MP3s at CD Baby.

-Joanne (from Cape Cod)
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Old 09-29-10, 07:29 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by atlantamoi View Post
Nanananabooboo!

Norm, to be honest I'm really only familiar with his debut. I need to listen to more including the vids you posted (I'll do when I can listen).
I loved his debut and then never kept up after that.
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Old 09-29-10, 07:43 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by nicepace View Post
I registered on this board just so I could respond to this thread.

I am a tremendous fan of Willie Nile! I find you can't fully appreciate him until you've seen him live. He is a real powerhouse of a live performer. He has a huge amount of energy on stage and radiates a strong love and enthusiasm for music. His concerts are among the best I've ever seen. Unfortunately (for me) he plays more shows in Europe (Italy, Spain and England) where he is better known than in the States.

I've talked to him after shows and he's a genuine, warm-hearted guy who honestly appreciates his fans, and humbly appreciates his place in the rock music world -- although not rich and famous, he's able to do what he loves and make a living at it.

He says that he considers himself a storyteller. His songs do tell stories, sometimes the kind with a plot, sometimes the kind that describe a feeling or a belief.

The comparison I would make is not with Springsteen, or with Dylan, but with the Guthrie family -- a little of Arlo and a little of Woody. I was introduced to Willie a couple of years ago when I heard his first two albums, and Willie's voice reminded me of Arlo. Where does Woody come in? Willie's not a folkie -- he's a rocker all the way -- but he believes music can change the world, just like Woody did. He has a song on his new record called "One Guitar," a song that's a direct spiritual descendent of Woody Guthrie's ideas.

His new record is called 'The Innocent Ones.' So far you can only get it in MP3 format but the CD will be coming out soon. For now you can get the MP3s at CD Baby.

-Joanne (from Cape Cod)
Wow, thanks for joining and submitting your comments, Joanne. I am thrilled to hear he has a new album coming out. I certainly hadn't expected a new one this soon.
Interesting that you would compare him to Guthrie. Of course, both Springsteen and Dylan (especially the latter) were tremendously influenced by Guthrie as well. I agree with you that Willie's a rocker all the way, though some of his songs do step quite deeply into folk territory. But where pure folk music is, I would argue, typically more concerned with the content of the lyrics than the sound of the music, Nile is more concerned with melody than lyrics (and thankfully so). As a complement, he writes some good textual content, though I find much of it isn't all that original (too many simple rhymes and characters named "Billy" or "Frankie" (eg., "Now That the War is Over", which is otherwise a wonderful song)).

Edited to add: "Yesterday's Dreams" is, I think, one of his best-written songs. It propounds a powerful message about unfulfilled dreams, a failed relationship, and so forth. It also has a beautiful melody, but I find the one thing hampering its ascent to masterpiece status is - ironically, considering the high level of production seen on the rest of the album - ever so slightly muddy production and imperfect arrangements.

Last edited by Norm de Plume; 09-29-10 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 09-29-10, 08:09 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

You're right, of course, that there are folk elements in Willie's music. He has a couple of songs with a Celtic feel to them, too. He sometimes does live shows with a two-man band -- himself on guitar and Frankie Lee on drums. I have yet to see this combo, but with the right sort of performer this kind of presentation can be extremely effective, allowing the personality of the performer to shine through more than in a full-band show. Frankie Lee, by the way, is a regular in Willie's band and co-writes a lot of his songs.

I think Willie Nile is on his way to the U.K. right now, so if anyone reading this thread is on that side of the pond, you'll have a chance to find out for yourself how good he is.

-Joanne (from Cape Cod)
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Old 09-29-10, 08:09 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Thanks again for the heads-up on the new album, Joanne from Cape Cod. Listened to the clips at CDBaby and it sounds promising, though it's hard to gauge based on such short excerpts. I doubt it will measure up House of a Thousand Guitars, but I'll reserve judgment. Any idea when the CD will be released? I'm not into downloading music. I like to hold the CD in my hands.

And by the way, to refute a suggestion you made in your post, I can fully appreciate his music without having seen him live. I love it. I have no interest in seeing him live. I have never been to a rock concert (I've been to the symphony a few times in my life).
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Old 09-29-10, 08:19 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by nicepace View Post
He has a couple of songs with a Celtic feel to them, too.
That's true. "That's Enough for Me" may be the most obvious example. "The Midnight Rose", a beautiful song with a slightly overemphatic chorus, is another.
He sometimes does live shows with a two-man band -- himself on guitar and Frankie Lee on drums. I have yet to see this combo, but with the right sort of performer this kind of presentation can be extremely effective, allowing the personality of the performer to shine through more than in a full-band show. Frankie Lee, by the way, is a regular in Willie's band and co-writes a lot of his songs.
See that's why I want to avoid live shows. I don't want "Willie Nile Unplugged". I like the full-bodied sound of his music as it exists on his albums (with the exception of the first two, which were poorly produced).
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Old 09-29-10, 09:20 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Norm de Plume View Post
Interesting. Well, I appreciate the different takes. And who's guarddog, and why am I being compared to him?
He has a habit of making crazy arguments and offers dozens of goofy Youtube videos as evidence.
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Old 09-29-10, 09:41 PM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by NORML54601 View Post
He has a habit of making crazy arguments and offers dozens of goofy Youtube videos as evidence.
Is that what's going on in this thread?
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Old 09-30-10, 12:39 AM
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Re: Who's familiar with Willie Nile? (hint: he kicks ass!)

Originally Posted by Norm de Plume View Post
Is that what's going on in this thread?
*shakes head* After 10 years dude? Really?
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