Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery
If you visit Willis Earl Beal’s website you are presented with a limited amount of information. All of it is key to the enigma that is Willis Earl Beal. It features a self portrait sketch and an address to which you can write to and he will send you a drawing. It also lists a phone number which you can call and he will sing to you. These are not access points you would normally associate with someone signed to XL Recordings. On the surface these appear to be gimics but on listening to his album, you begin to sense that these are genuine acts by an artist wishing to make contact with their audience their way.
Discharged by the US Army and then drifting through a number of low pay jobs - including a spell of homelessness - Beal began leaving CD-Rs of his music around Alburquerque. In addition he left annotated flyers advertising for a girlfriend which were picked up by Found magazine who put him on their cover. Through Found he released an initial collection of songs and this has led ultimately to being signed by uber-indie XL.
Being a stable-mate of Adele has not pushed Beal into the mainstream. Acousmatic Sourcery is an invitation into spending time in Ellis’ world of home recordings. There’s a rawness here that cuts across the spectrum, from Ellis’ paired down immediacy to the songs’ emotional openness. Vocally there’s a near blues like rasp in songs such as 'Take Me Away' to a quiet confessional stillness on 'Sambo Joe from the Rainbow'. The album as a whole comes across as the product of an artist completely free from commercial pressures or influences.
Often albums reflect a stylised filtering of an artist, their music carefully targetted an an audience, be it stadium friendly MOR, coffee shop chic or curtain closed indie introspection. With Willis Earl Beal you have the sense that you are engaging with an artist to which there is no filtering, no bigger objective but to put across their musical take on life. Whilst the open offers of drawings and phone calls may recede as he becomes more widely known we can be assured that WEB is on a trajectory that will only take us to new and intriguing musical territories.