New Yorker Willie Nile has had a career renaissance in the last half-dozen years, with more music and recognition during that time than in the almost 30 preceding years. It's long overdue, as Nile has been an under-the-radar power pop and rootsy rock icon since his earliest albums in the 1980's. Nile is all over the map on this new set, taking its title seriously as he barrels through a musical travelogue that's delineated by the easygoing folk-pop of the title track's city name and cultural landmark-dropping lyrics and the line, "I've got the motor running, babe, there's magic in your eyes." Nile's out for a joyride and we're lucky enough to be riding shotgun.
As a New Yorker, Nile has assimilated some of the same roots rock and punk influences as bands such as The Del-Lords (who just released a pretty good new album of their own), and opening track This is Our Time could easily have come from the Scott Kempner school of rock 'n' roll anthem writing. Nile's New York lifestyle is the subject of Life on Bleecker Street, which evokes The Clash and Lou Reed as it romanticizes the Greenwich Village scene, and the city figures in other songs such as Sunrise in New York City, There's No Place Like Home, and the blistering take on Jim Carroll's classic People Who Died.
The most arresting tune isn't a rocker or an ode to NYC, however, but the midtempo love song She's Got My Heart, which offers up Nile as a lost link between Springsteen and Dylan, with a bit of Jackson Browne's SoCal sound to polish things to a mellow sheen. It's a simply stated sentiment that's nonetheless a heartfelt and openly honest statement: "She's got her father's eyes, she's got her mother's smile, but she's got my heart."
This may be an "American Ride" as the title claims, but Nile proves here that he rarely needs to leave New York City to give listeners a tour of what he considers the great American rock 'n' roll landscape.