“Me? I’m in a rock and roll band.” Willie Nile sings that line from “Sweet Jane” almost as good as did the song’s creator, Lou Reed. Now 69, Nile, looks like he could be Reed’s second cousin, and he sings with that same deliberate lack of anything resembling vocal training. But Nile’s got Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan influences, plus maybe a sprinkling of Springsteen. He covers Dylan with uncanny accuracy, but his own wordy originals — crafted on a par with the folk music godfather himself, Pete Seeger — grab both critical and peer acclaim. Nile is a musician’s musician, but a name that rarely rings any bells among the music-consuming public.
Willie Nile Band: "The Times They Are a-Changin'"
Hailing from Buffalo, New York, Willie Nile is the alter ego of Robert Noonan. Nile/Noonan was a dynamic factor in the New York coffeehouse scene way back before CBGB ever heard of rock music. But his was a promising career scarred by stalls, declines, illness, business problems, and bad luck. Just one example: Nile’s second album Golden Down came out in 1981. He was not heard from again for nearly a decade because of record industry troubles that temporarily shelved his career. When Nile finally made an attempt at a comeback, it was in Norway. After that, he released Places I Have Never Been, but it would be seven more career-killing years before another Willie Nile album saw the light of day.
- Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 8 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
$20 - $25
Sure, call it folk music, Nile’s stuff, but it’s big and loud and electric, of a kind that gave Seeger the bad shakes. You always get a sense that something cosmic powers Nile’s music, that there’s a mojo in the man’s stage presence. These are noble days for Willie Nile, finally. He might just make it after all.