ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
American Ride, by Willie Nile
Willie Nile is on a roll. After playing the major label game twice in his nearly 35-year career, Nile quietly self-released 1999’s outstanding Beautiful Wreck of the World. Since then he has delivered three more compelling albums filled with high energy rock songs and touching ballads. Well, he’s done it again with the American Ride, the latest addition to the Nile canon.
Nile writes a lot about what he knows: life in New York City. “Bleecker Street” sets vingettes from Nile’s Greenwich Village neighborhood against a bustling melody. “This is life on Bleecker Street where the tourists shuffle to a boom-box beat,” he sings, “old men sit and stare at their feet, this is life on Bleecker Street.”
Nile hits the road for the melancholy “American Ride,” a celebration of the rich beauty and history of the United States. While the song is ostensibly about a cross-country trip, the chorus is a gentle plea for companionship as Nile pleads, “ride with me baby come on.”
“If I Ever See the Light” and “She’s Got My Heart” are quintessential Nile. The former features verses that build to an anthemic chorus while the latter is a mature love song with a gentle sway. There’s just an infectious energy to his Nile and his music. It’s as if he is defying you to not break out into a grin and sing along.
The lone cover is a rousing take on Jim Carroll’s legendary “People Who Died.” As a rock and roll survivor with New York City street cred, Nile is among the few who can do the song justice. The song also serves as a showcase for his formidable band. These guys know how to rock, and they rock this one hard.
The tempo slows on the beautiful ballad “The Crossing.” Accompanied only by a piano with some light string flourishes, Nile reflects on the immigrant experience:
Sing we of our kin and kind
All those we have left behind
Ever in our hearts and minds
We who made the crossing.
It seems apropos that the opening track is titled “This is Our Time.” Keep on waving the rock and roll flag, Willie, ‘cause this is your time.
Audio Stream: Willie Nile, “American Ride”
Elegy (In a Distant Room), Cold Satellite (from the Signature Sounds release Calvacade)
What happens when a poet Lisa Olstein joins forces with a folk singer Jeffrey Foucault? They make a killer rock album, of course. There are a couple of ballads in the mix however it’s the bruising guitar-driven rockers that caught my ear. The songs have a great road-worn feel to them, in fact they’re the perfect soundtrack for long drives down rural highways.
Audio Download: Cold Satellite, “Elegy (In a Distant Room)”
When the Drugs Kick In, The Del-Lords (from the GB Music release Elvis Club)
After a 13(!) year hiatus, New York City’s Del-Lords went back into the studio and picked up right where they left off. This is an album filled with amp’d up guitars and pounding beats, weathered vocals and rebellious lyrics. What’s not to like? This is rock and roll the way it was meant to be played.
Audio Stream: The Del-Lords, “When the Drugs Kick In”
Box I Take to Work, Mike Stinson (from the self-released Hell and Half of Georgia)
After 18 years in Southern California, singer-songwriter Stinson relocated to the musically inviting climate of Houston, Texas. Damn if it doesn’t suit him well. He reminds me of Steve Forbert both in voice and writing style. His songs are filled with colorful stories that will bring a smile to your face. Even the sad ones radiate humor and warmth.
I love this song that finds Stinson reflecting on a traveling musician’s tools of the trade. “I got a torn envelope that says band money,” he sings, “let me tell you that’s an oxymoron, honey.”
Audio Download: Mike Stinson, “Box I Take to Work”
Dreamin’, The Please Please Me (from the self-released Shake a Little Harder)
This was one of those glorious random discoveries when I stopped by my local late one Saturday night a year or so ago. I gotta imagine it was tough for the band to be playing to a talkative club crowd far from their Austin home. Well, they earned at least one fan that night.
Singer Jessie Torrisi has a bit of edge that she channels through her earnest songwriting. Torrisi’s bandmates, percussionist Agustin Frederic and cellist Alissa McClure, add their touch to create a soundscape that has a compelling tension yet is immediately engaging.
Audio Download: The Please Please Me, “Dreamin’”
Treme Second Line, Kermit Ruffins (from the Basin Street Records release We Partyin’ Traditional Style)
Ruffins has become something of a New Orleans institution, a musician whose regular weekly gigs across town always draw a fun-seeking crowd. And for good reason: Ruffins and his band know how to throw a party. As the album title suggests, his latest hearkens back to the classic era of jazz. Alongside covers of Louis Armstrong and others from the bygone era is Ruffins’ own rollicking “Treme Second Line.”
If you’ve been to New Orleans and haven’t seen Kermit, then you haven’t been to New Orleans.
Audio Stream: Kermit Ruffins, “Treme Second Line”
Armed with just his guitar, Stelling packs his songs with enough energy and intensity to be the envy of a full-on rock band. Of course, having said that, I picked a ballad for the playlist. Well, whether fast or slow, his songs have a depth that command attention.
Audio Download: Christopher Paul Stelling, “Homesick Tributaries”
How can one not like a band with a name like this? Even more so, how can one not like ’em when they sing a rock song about Andy Griffith? Singer-songwriter laments a loss of innocence, telling the tale of a boy with an abusive father and a troubled life. “They don’t make men like Andy Griffith anymore, Mayberry is dead and gone.” If you like your Americana infused with Jack Daniels, then this is the band for you.
Audio Download: I Can Lick Any SOB in the House, “Mayberry”
Lead Deadstring Brother Kurt Marschke relocated from Detroit to Nashville and absorbed the Nashville influence into his music. His music still has the rough edges and freewheeling attitude of the band’s earlier work, but now has a more laid back country feel.
Audio Download: The Deadstring Brothers, “Like a California Wildfire”
Ain’t Gonna Let the World, Dan Israel (from the self-released Live On)
The prolific Minneapolis singer-songwriter has unleashed the 12th release of his 22-year career. While many of the songs reflect on falling short despite the best of intentions, they are fortified with a delicate optimism. “I ain’t gonna let the world get me down… sayin’ no to the sorrow, no to the pain.”
Audio Download: Dan Israel, “Ain’t Gonna Let the World”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.