Willie Nile

Streets of New York (00:02:59)

Willie Nile is a winning populist, whose grasp of street life runs deep and warm. His first album in seven years is a terrific return to form for a bantamweight rocker whose eponymous 1980 debut made him the 87th guy to be heralded as "the new Dylan."

Nile learned those Bob-lessons well, but he's his still own man. Whether it's the gallows-humor rock of "Cell Phones Ringing (in the Pockets of the Dead)," a spirited take on the Clash-Eddy Grant classic "Police on My Back," or the urgent, autobiographical "Back Home," Nile handles it with aplomb. And if he's a tad sentimental -- the title track drifts perilously close to cliché -- he hasn't lost his bite: "The Rights of Man don't mean a damn here in the Age of Style" is a line that carries a heavy freight.

Backed by musicians from the Wallflowers, the Hooters, and John Mellencamp's band, Nile sounds as energized as he did on his Arista debut. While many songs focus on his New York home, the sentiments are universal, the drive unmistakable. Nile is back, in full embrace of the world.