Willie Nile: If I Was A River

Pared to the bone life/career assessing triumph from street-rock veteran.

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A stylistic sharp U-turn away from 2013’s American Ride, Nile’s latest album is a reflective revelation. Beloved by Springsteen and Lucinda Williams, Nile has long planned to focus on his magisterial keyboard ballads.

These valiantly elegiac odes – the title track, Once In A Lullaby and the confessional I Don’t Do Crazy (Anymore)! – suggest it was all a matter of time, life experience the essential ingredient, to bring forth the full fruits of classical training ingrained in childhood.

The scurrilous Lullaby Loon (‘rock’n’roll’s a crock of shit’) appears off kilter, but actually emboldens the central conceit: Willie the lone figure baring all while maintaining the complete artistic control he’s long fought for.

Perhaps a man calling himself Nile was always bound to make an album with a powerful river metaphor at its core, and this doesn’t disappoint./o:p

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Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.