Willis Earl Beal: Soulful Brotha and Genre Chameleon

Formerly a complete unknown to the music scene, outsider Willis Earl Beal has been making his rounds through the music blogosphere, appearing everywhere from music aficionado favourites Pitchfork to The AV Club. Being on the outside, Beal is naturally one of the few artists who still have a mythic quality to them. The man is said to be unemployed, still living with his grandmother, and never truly performed in front of a real audience before. The south side of his native city, Chicago, is plastered with hand-drawn flyers created by him stating that he would personally sing and draw for you if you contact him. And that remains true according to his official website.

Now signed to Hot Charity, an imprint of XL (home to the likes of Adele and M.I.A), Beal unexpectedly has the spotlight on him – going from singing in railway stations to touring with SBTRKT in the UK. His debut LP Acousmatic Sorcery is slated for a 3 April 2012 release through the label. If bits and pieces of the album released online so far were to be believed, the LP is set to be a gloriously lo-fi genre-hopping record quite unlike anything we have heard of before.

Beal’s sound is chameleonic; seemingly capable of sounding like a soul brotha still stuck to the chain gang, only to later move on to a guttural devil-at-the-crossroads bluesy vocals, which then suddenly regresses to a softer, indie singer-songwriter music. Which is what latest single and video ‘Evening’s Kiss’ is.

Hand-drawn and directed by the man himself, the video sees Beal walking (and cycling) through his neighbourhood with ennui-filled expression – sounding more Cat Power in his lyrics than his usual soulful black Tom Waits self. Like all of his songs so far, ‘Evening’s Kiss’ remains minimalistic in its instruments and arrangement, complimenting the stripped-down sketches of the animated video.

Willis Earl Beal’s LP Acousmatic Sorcery will be released on 3 April through XL’s imprint Hot Charity. Click here if you feel like e-mailing and talking to Beal. Watch the video below.