For close to the last 40 years, Willie Nile has been an American rocker, pure and simple. That’s what makes his latest studio album so unique and ultimately interesting. He has traveled in a different direction as his new studio release is an album of original piano tunes.
During the course of his career he has been one of the more passionate rock and rollers on the music scene but now his emphasis shifts to a gentle and melodic sound that keeps the focus directly on his lyrics.
His approach is sitting at the piano, with minimal accompaniment and presenting his songs in a laid back and intimate fashion. It is basically keeping it as simple as possible, which benefits the material. His chief contributors are guitarist/keyboardist Steuart Smith and mandolin/acoustic guitarist/violinist David Mansfield. They are experienced enough to provide support, yet at the same time wise enough not intrude upon the subtle nature of his performances.
While most people probably picture Nile with a guitar in his hands, he proves to be a more than capable pianist. The lyrics are strong as he explores love, loss, joy, hope, and peace but the music is softer than what he usually produces.
The use of the word river in the album title is appropriate as songs such as “Song of A Soldier,” “The Ones You Used To Love,” “Let Me Be The River,” “Lullaby Loon,” and the poignant title track meander along. The music does not overwhelm the listener but rather ebbs and flows.
Only a mature and confident artist would issue album so different from his usual norm. If I Was A River finds Nile taking the road less traveled and he and his fans are the better for it.