Willie Nile takes rock on an 'American Ride'

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

See that bright light? That's Willie Nile's star rising. And it's about time!

Silly that it has taken him several decades to begin to reap the kind of praise that his music has deserved for the 35 years of his career. The Who realized his brilliance. So does Bruce Springsteen. And Bono. And did we mention Lucinda Williams? Yep, artists and the news media have been on the Nile bandwagon for years. And at long last, an array of music lovers are starting to hear what they've been missing all these years.

"It's really very gratifying," said Nile about how his ready-to-be-released album, "American Ride," is gathering a tsunami of fans as evidenced by hipster buzz. "I'm just very grateful. I've never been happier or more successful than I am right now."

The Buffalo, N.Y., native, who has been based in New York City long enough to almost qualify as a native, was ready to release his rockin' Americana album independently after raising funds through PledgeMusic.com to create it. He changed direction after Tom Lipsky, president of Loud & Proud Records, approached him about letting the label release it. Nile, who hasn't had major label representation since the early 1990s, signed on.

Onstage
Willie Nile Trio
» Where: Jammin' Java, 227 Maple Ave. East, Vienna
» When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
» Info: $20; 703-255-1566; jamminjava.com

Just the idea that Nile has been one of the best-kept secrets in Americana music is surprising enough. Hearing that he had no record deal to support his brilliantly effusive music that garnered public praise from a who's who of artists, including and beyond the ones mentioned above, is almost stupefying.

The 12 songs on "American Ride" will hopefully bring Nile the well-deserved recognition he has earned. Just listen to the title track of his new album, a mix of gritty, acoustic Bob Dylan, funky Ramones and everyman Springsteen. Nile clearly knows his art. Just as you sink into the comfort of "American Ride," out comes mad-as-hell-and-not-gonna-take-it-anymore rocker "Holy War," giving the terrorists what-for as only rock can do.

And are those hints of Elvis Costello we hear in "This is Our Time?" Sure sounds like the blistering guitars and hit-'em-between-the-eyes rock of Costello circa 1990 or so.

In a way, though, these comparisons are terribly unfair. As trite as it sounds, you can compare Nile to an array of artists, but his musical power is his own. He's not dwelling in the shadow of any other artist.

"It's been an interesting journey," said Nile, talking about his concerts, in which he presents an array of his back catalog to fans. "There have been all kinds of ups and downs, and I've just tried to work hard and persevere. I don't have a chip on my shoulder. Everybody that comes up [after my shows] tells me, 'I never heard your music before. It's so rocking. I love it.' That's just inspires me."

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