Maybe you are a big fan of FOUND Magazine and you recognize the above image, drawn by one Willis Earl Beal. In case you missed the burst of blog-hype surrounding Beal back in 2012, please allow me to introduce you to his work. When said hype began the reclusive Chicago singer-songwriter was sending a hand-drawn picture to anyone who wrote him asking for one AND singing for whomever called him up – even going so far to list his number and address on his website. In a world so stricken with fear, I thought that this was amazing! Though I never wrote or called him myself I saw a couple of his pictures and dug what he was doing so I decided to give his music a listen. The naive nature of his artwork had not prepared me for how impressive a voice Beal was working with, both literally and figuratively. While initially perplexed and a little frustrated by the quality I had to remind myself of the narrative behind it: Acousmatic Sorcery was recorded on a 4-track which Beal needed help getting digitized.
While the album suffers from being a bit uneven this has more to do with a number of things: the limitations of tape, the switching of the track listing by XL Recordings, the two very distinct styles Beals works within: very stripped-down gospel/blues or lo-fi bedroom pop. But this unevenness is a moot point since Beal creates with a passion that is lacking in music these days, bringing a novelist’s commitment to the album’s themes (pursing enlightenment/women and the many difficulties therein) and a vocal delivery that harkens back to the great gospel and blues of the 1950s and 60s. Check out some of his songs in the videos and some more of his drawings:
And if your interest is sufficiently piqued, check out this short film of his: