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Music Review: Willie Nile – The Innocent Ones

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So what does a person do when he graduates from the University of Buffalo with a degree in philosophy? Well in Willie Nile’s case you become one of the better, if underrated, rock artists active today.

Since the release of his self-titled debut album in 1980, he has floated in and out of the rock limelight. He has now returned with his latest release, The Innocent Ones. It has only been available as an import, but now will be issued in the United States beginning next month.

The album is basically a three man affair. He continues to play the guitar and keyboards plus provide the vocals. He is joined by longtime friend and bandmate, Frankie Lee who handles the drums and percussion, plus multi-instrumentalist Steuart Smith. Nile and Lee also share writing credit on 10 of the 11 tracks.

During the first two decades of his career he only released four studio and two live albums. He has been a lot more prolific lately as since 2006 he has issued three studio and three live albums. His new release follows in the footsteps of 2006’s Streets Of New York and 2009’s House Of A Thousand Guitars. The production is slick, the intriguing lyrics explore themes of the forgotten and hopeless, the musicianship is first rate, and the vocals are emotional.

The album’s press release states that Nile considers this album to be as good as anything he has ever produced, and listening to the music he may be right.

The music stands on its own. “Singin’ Bell” is an anthem that combines Pete Seeger and The Ramones. “One Guitar” is a philosophical statement about how one guitar and one voice can change the world. He is encouraging other artists to record the song as part of his One Guitar Campaign. All versions will be sold on iTunes with the profits going to charity.

There are beautiful ballads (“Song For You” and “Sideways Beautiful”), rock/pop creations (“My Little Girl” and “Far Green Hills”), and some rockers as well (the aforementioned “One Guitar” and “The Innocent Ones”).

It’s nice to have Willie Nile back performing and recording on a regular basis. He has always had the respect of his peers and his small but rabid fan base. Hopefully The Innocent Ones will bring him the commercial success that has always eluded him. His new album shows that his passion for creating good music still burns bright.

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