The Innocent Ones
If there were a version of the Traveling Wilburys for unfairly overlooked singer-songwriters, Willie Nile could be its very own Tom Petty. A rock ’n’ roll lifer who’s earned endorsements from Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams and just about every other guitar slinger with an opinion worth trusting, Nile has managed a mere seven studio albums since debuting in 1980. Luckily three of those have come in the last five years—and as this latest suggests, he’s not finished making up for lost time.
On The Innocent Ones, Nile gets right down to affirming his faith in music. Four of the first five tracks are about the healing power of song, and thanks to his classicist touches—Byrds jangle, Beatles melody, Dylan conviction, Springsteen big beat—he has no trouble making his point. Nile evokes the Ramones on the fast and spiky “Can’t Stay Home,” flashing back to his nights spent hanging out at CBGBs back in the ’70s. He makes a convincing enough punk, but it’s the earnest anthems “Singin’ Bell” and “One Guitar” that reveal his true nature. He may not be a Wilbury, but this troubadour is still traveling.