Willie Nile: House of a Thousand Guitars

willienile_houseNile spins another rock ‘n’ roll classic

Talk about a second wind. Fifteen years after his previous studio effort (1991’s Places I Have Never Been) Nile summoned a life in rock ‘n’ roll as the musical language for his hometown love letter, Streets of New York. Nile seemed to be aging forward and backward at the same time, writing lyrics from the perspective of middle-age and setting them to the fevered musical roots of youth. He was streetwise and urban, a rebel and a student of musical history who could channel the original energies of rock’s founders without sounding retro. Last year’s Live from the Streets of New York flashed back to his breakthrough with a supercharged release party’s live run through.

Nile’s Benjamin Button-like excursion towards the verve and uncensored creativity of youth continues with House of a Thousand Guitars, featuring a dozen songs that capture both the heart of rock ‘n’ roll and the depth of middle-age. The disc opens with a lyrical tribute to Nile’s predecessors that compels his bandmates to sing along on the chorus. The baritone riff that opens “Run” is just one indication that Nile has a universal rock ‘n’ roll fever for the call of guitar, bass and drums. Here again the chorus is catchy enough to sing on its first pass, but the hooks are sticky enough to hum the rest of the day. The rocking continues with the apocalyptic “Doomsday Dance” before Nile catches his breath on the ballads “Love is a Train” and “Her Love Falls Like Rain.”

If there’s a weakness to this album, it’s that some of Nile’s similes are well thumbed, but even these familiar turns are refreshed by the fervor of his vocals, the emotional swell of his melodies and the powerhouse playing of his band. Nile writes brooding and fist-pumping love songs, aware of both the costs and the returns of relationships. The balance sheet on “Now That the War is Over” is more one sided, enumerating with sad clarity the emotional and physical wreckage of armed conflict.  The album closes with an end-of-the-night lullaby inspired by his adopted metropolis, “When the Last Light Goes Out on Broadway.”

All of the promise that Nile showed in his 20s and 30s now seems like an apprenticeship to the blossom of his late 50s. He writes in his title song of a place where “they say there are no broken strings / just some busted hearts and a bee that stings,” and it’s clearly a place he’s not only been living but helping to maintain. Streets of New York may forever remain his artistic pièce de résistance, but with House of a Thousand Guitars he’s served notice that there’s still more rock and roll to be sung. Mark this one down for your end-of-the year best-of list. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Doomsday Dance
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13 Responses to “Willie Nile: House of a Thousand Guitars”

  1. Hey, great write up. I have an on again off again relationship to Willie Nile’s music. I like the sound of this.

    “If there’s a weakness to this album, it’s that some of Nile’s similes are well thumbed,…..”
    Yes! a long time complaint.

  2. hyperbolium says:

    The similes are noticeable at first, but quickly fade from view as the quality of the music and expression overtakes you.

  3. thomas delange says:

    I just downloaded on I-tunes. This album is on fire. His last album and this one are a great 1-2 punch. I think people still look at the next-Dylan stuff that used to be said and sometimes resent it but that was most likely record company hype, there’s only 1 Dylan & I am sure Mr. Nile would agree. I highly recommend this CD!

  4. jimmie says:

    Listen to the guitars speak on Magdalena at 2:54 they say; isn’t that weird?

  5. hyperbolium says:

    Yeah – that’s is a cool guitar sound a 2:54 – good ears!

  6. Kristy says:

    I never heard him before …but he is my new addiction as of today!!

    He just sure woke me up..I looove his music.
    This song is such an ironic treat.
    He even looks like Dylan..I thought of Dylan the second I heard him ..Kick ass guitar too..and thanks for the Magdalena heads up.

    Ow …I’m so excited.

    I hope to see him here in NY!

  7. Kristy says:

    I just listened to the album and I am humbled by the purity and beauty…..Every song is a haunting..and a finely crafted work of art.
    He’s a poet…a shining word smith..and the comparison to Dylan is the greatest compliment any artist can ever hope for.

    He’s gonna’ be in Montclair NJ later this month and I am going!


  8. hyperbolium says:

    If you end up liking the show in Montclair, check out his live album “Live From the Streets of New York.”

  9. Dennis says:

    When The Last Light Goes Out On Broadway:
    Willie is not singing about Broadway here, if he were he would have put it on Street of New York. He is singing about life itself.
    Substitute the phrase “my life” for “this dirty town” and listen again.
    Blew me away!

  10. Kristy says:

    The concert is at some cool UU church that is all about music..and of course feeding the hungry.

    Too bad it’s an hour away.

    I just found this lady and she is so good… Amy Winehouse & Duffy combined to me.

    I can’t stop listening to Doomsday Dance.

    It’s joyous for an apocalyptic cry.

    If we have to go…..we go dancing!!

    Audra Mae on MySpace Music – Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads

  11. Kristy says:

    Oh and Dennis ..Most poetry is a metaphor for other things….But the secrets of a song writer stay with him….We won’t REALLY know what he meant till he spills :O)))

  12. Kristy says:

    Oh and Hyper..going now to Streets!

    Thank you…. I love your site.

  13. Kristy says:

    OK I’m in heaven.lol

    Listening to Streets…Oh MY!!!

    He can’t help that he sounds like Dylan..he ain’t trying to be him..But he sho’ do sound like him.
    Lawd this is beautiful stuff.



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