Willis Earl Beal | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Willis Earl Beal Recommended Agenda Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Fri., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m. 2013

When I met Willis Earl Beal a couple years ago, he was drawing, writing fiction and poetry, and recording charmingly shambolic outsider antifolk with a few instruments, zero know-how, and a whole lot of heart. The B Side cover story I wrote on Beal caught the eye of XL imprint Hot Charity, which in 2012 released a compilation of his home recordings, Acousmatic Sorcery, packaged with his writing and artwork. (At the label’s request, I wrote the PR bio for the release.) With a bit of music-business muscle behind him, Beal has made art his livelihood, and he’s already starting to branch out—he stars in an art-house movie called Memphis, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month. For his new album, Nobody Knows, he worked in a proper studio with pros such as producer Rodaidh McDonald (the XX, Savages, How to Dress Well), drummer Jahphet Negast Landis (TV on the Radio), violinist Ray Suen (the Killers); Cat Power even adds backup vocals on one song. The richly developed experimental pop on Nobody Knows sheds the jury-rigged, often delicate sound of Acousmatic Sorcery, allowing Beal to really pour on the power, growling and belting in his raw, beautiful voice, but the songs are still eccentric and sometimes almost ramshackle. He combines so many genres—moody ambience, stand-and-deliver rap, rollicking blues, wispy folk, earthy doo-wop, carefree soul—that the new album sounds like a “best of” collection from a restless musician with a much longer career. The breezy classic soul of “Coming Through” and the heartbreaking atmospheric pop of “Burning Bridges” would be enough to make the album memorable, but they’re just a small part of what’s great about Nobody Knows—there isn’t a dud on it. This is Beal’s second show with his new live band: Landis on drums, Melvin Honore on bass and keyboard, and Grant Jefferson on guitar and keyboard. —Leor Galil

Price: $12

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