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Saucey ... and far from a safe listen!,
This review is from: Acousmatic Sorcery (Audio CD)
There is already considerable mythology (hype?) surrounding Willis Earl Beal. Originally from Chicago and now a resident of Albuquerque he is a prolific song writer but this (`Evening's Kiss') will be his first `formal' release.
Beal , still only in his early 20's, has been recording songs for some time - and then leaving the CD's around town in the (alleged) hope of using them to befriend girls!
One such CD was taken seriously by a local paper and .... to cut a long tale of hype short .... 17 of his songs were put out on a limited 200 only run of CD's. He's now signed to XL Records and 9 of the 17 songs appear on this CD (plus 'Nepenenoyka' and 'Bright Copper 'Noon' which were not on the earlier release). Criminally excluded on the commercial release are the lovely 'My Resignation' and the Screamin' Jay Hawkins-alike 'The Masquerade' which you really should see if you can find lurking on the internet.
`Acousmatic Sorcery' (the same title as the 17 track version) is a perfect title for an album which veers from challenge to pleasure and back again. Beal has an amazing voice - actually TWO voices. For much of the album (really a collection of home recorded songs 'put together' as an album) you could be mistaken for thinking it was a set of lost `Franks Wild Years' era Tom Waits out-takes (recorded in a toilet!) while on others he sounds closer to an unpolished Otis Redding.
`Evening's Kiss' is one of the few tracks from this challenging album with anything resembling conventional instrumentation. On this track you actually hear hints of guitars - whereas on many of the other tracks Beal's voice is accompanied by minimal Waits-esqe percussion and little else.
Be warned, all of Beal's available tracks so far - including `Evening's Kiss' (the single release)- are low-fi in the extreme and veer between being things of beauty and, in some cases, sound like Alan Lomax's early field recordings of anonymous bluesmen and sharecroppers. Many are raw and ghostly - but packed with the emotion of the delta blues singers of 60 or more years ago.
Rumour has it that Beal will soon enter a studio for the first time. It is to be hoped that this undoubted talent finds (or is found by his record label) a sympathetic backing band (such as The Bellrays or The Dirtbombs or even Jack White) but in the meanwhile `Evening's Kiss' is a very good place for him, and you, to start out (perhaps before you dip your toe in to the full album).
If you get the, rare, chance to see Beal live (as I did at Nottingham's excellent 'Dot To Dot' festival) then grab it. In the flesh it all makes real sense. An artist (in every sense!) of considerable stage presence - even with just a reel-to-reel tape player and a crazy cape to keep him company.
A name to watch.