Describe Willis Earl Beal’s sound however you want – stripped down, raw, gritty, emotional, soulful – but this burgeoning anti-folk hero from the South Side of Chicago is nothing but real, and people are starting to notice.
Beal, who fronted Chicago blues outfit The Ghostones as recently as last November, is a unique voice in today’s overly auto-tuned and digital music scene. Recording directly to tape (paging Dave Grohl), he crafts songs that indicate a wide range of influences from blues, soul, and old school R&B to folk, punk, and indie, and it’s all done in an incredibly lo-fi fashion, giving the recordings the feel of an old Robert Johnson vinyl record.
Slowly starting to make noise in the last couple years after a handful of writers happened upon copies of his now-famous flyers, Beal had profiles published in Found Magazine and the Chicago Reader and attracted offers to work from the likes of Mos Def and Damon Albarn.
Beal self-released his solo debut Acousmatic Sorcery last October, but he has since signed a record deal with Hot Charity Recordings, an imprint of XL Recordings (The White Stripes, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Vampire Weekend, and Adele), and digital music retailers pulled the self-released version from their virtual shelves. Hot Charity plans to re-release Acousmatic Sorcery on April 3, and you can preorder it here.
The re-release is pared down from 17 songs to 11, the tracklisting has been rearranged, and the album art altered slightly from the original (thankfully, it’s still Beal’s original art, and the picture of Bob Dylan in the background remains).
As far as first impressions go, this one’s as starkly present as one could hope for; check out Beal’s powerful a cappella performances of Wavering Lines and Same Old Tears for Chicago-based culture blog UrbanEyez.
Same Old Tears
Beal hits the road in March and April, playing dates with Zulu Winter, SBTRKT, and WU LYF:
3/29 Brooklyn, NY @ Glasslands *
3/30 Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club #
3/31 Philadelphia, PA @ TLA #
4/1 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
4/4 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club #
4/6 Cleveland, OH @ House Of Blues #
4/7 Chicago, IL @ House Of Blues #
4/8 Madison, WI @ Majestic #
4/10 Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre #
4/11 Aspen, CO @ Belly Up #
4/23 Washington, D.C. @ Rock N Roll Hotel ^
4/24 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer ^
4/26 Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg ^
4/27 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom ^
4/28 Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
* = with Zulu Winter
# = with SBTRKT
^ = with WU LYF