Artist: Willie Nile
Album: Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan
Label: River House Records
Release Date: 6.23.17
Like a squatter inhabiting a series of lovely, decaying mansions, Willie Nile makes himself right at home inside the songs of his hero Bob Dylan – even going so far as to do some redecorating, as the always-mercurial Dylan is wont to do on occasion.
Though mostly similar, Nile’s sense of style is a bit different, as his folky brand of punk rock spray paints CBGB graffiti across rousing, wild arrangements of the 10 covers found on Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan. And yet he does so with reverence, smartly coloring within the lines to craft an immaculate, power-pop reimagining of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that’s infectious and lively, much like his up-tempo version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” – neat and tidy, and augmented with brisk handclaps. In all its shambolic glory, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is messier, imbued with all the dirty-faced rock ‘n’ roll charm of The Faces, while the sparsely rendered remake of “Every Grain of Sand” is affecting and heartfelt.
Although it’s Nile’s name on the marquee, there’s a blue-collar, communal vibe –thanks to rowdy backing choruses – to Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan that lifts “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35” with rollicking vigor and good cheer. Careful to let Dylan’s lyrical brilliance shine, Nile couches his words in an endearing, if rascally, rasp that preserves the autumnal romance of “I Want You” even as he takes a few liberties musically elsewhere. As tribute albums go, this one is just about perfect in that it truly celebrates Dylan’s artistry without fawning adoration.
–– Peter Lindblad