Willie Nile hoping to break through with ‘The Innocent Ones’ 

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How long can an artist remain The Next Big Thing?

For three ignominious decades, apparently, judging by the perpetually picked-to-click career of Willie Nile, who releases his latest “The Innocent Ones” effort — already an overseas hit — on Nov. 22.

The raspy-throated populist rocker was first discovered way back in the late ’70s by New York Times critic Robert Palmer. But after two brilliant albums for Arista, 1980’s “Willie Nile” and its 1981 followup “Golden Dawn,” he became so mired in legal disputes with the label, he swore off music for a full decade, finally returning in 1991 on Columbia with “Places I Have Never Been.”

Along the way, New Yorker Nile picked up devout fans like Bono, Lou Reed, Ian Hunter, Graham Parker, Jim Jarmusch and Bruce Springsten, who invited him to perform with the E Street Band. The Who’s Pete Townshend was such a booster, he booked him as The Who’s opening act on their 1980 U.S. tour.

Nile would leave Columbia to make records his way, and currently he’s expanded his new track “One Guitar” — about the redemptive power of music, something he knows a lot about — into a charitable campaign, www.oneguitar.org, wherein other artists are invited to rerecord his song, with all proceeds going to a variety of rock-solid causes.

Will he finally break through this year? Nile hopes so.

“‘The Innocent Ones,’” he says, “deals with some heavy issues here and there, but at the same time, I think its an upbeat, feel-good record.”

For more information, visit www.willienile.com.

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Tom Lanham

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