Willis Earl Beal’s debut 2012 release Acousmatic Sorcery intertwined lo-fi folk and howling gut-bucket blues and while follow-up Nobody knows. increased the fidelity, Beal’s threadbare emotions remained. He wept in “Everything unwinds.”, yearned to see the other side of pearly gates during “Too Dry to Cry”, and remained obstinate for the blind dedication of “Coming Through”. Aside from the greater emphasis on production, the only constant was Beal’s enduring voice’ winding through deltas and climbing up mountaintops.
“Babble on.”, one of two new songs Beal suddenly released yesterday travels further back in time than any previous release; its delicate guitar figure recalling a wandering English ballad. The dusty hat of a troubadour is one Beal wears well, calmly urging the cool waters to “babble on” and seeking refuge in places where “no one waits” and there “are no gates”. In this earnestness, Beal channels the often challenged verse of Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, imaging a world where the only barriers are mental and not man-made. Even in a subdued state, Beal’s voice is sounding. Like the river Beal traces nothing can stop him, not a single one of his guises will ever turn back.
The other track Beal debuted yesterday “Coriander Tree Life” is a slice of floating synth-work and features multitracked vocals. You can find it here.
“A lot of people think that the lives they lead are the truth, they think that what they believe is the truth, they think that what they see is the truth”, Chicago soul-singer Willis Earl Beal knowingly declares over a quaking tambourine and unfettered drum figure on new song “Coming Through”. Past singles “Everything unwinds.” and “Too Dry To Cry” from the soon to be released Nobody knows. largely abandoned the lo-fi production of Beal’s past efforts, proving the tape hiss wasn’t an aesthetic choice so much as a necessity. This latest effort continues the trend, as Beal’s warmth is matched only by the glistening guitar lines and guest Chan Marshall’s understated backing vocals. The sunny day grooves Beal unravels risk blotting out by: “righteous indignation, blind dedication, and a steadily diminishing heart.” But Beal remains unfazed, tenderly muttering in the outro “don’t worry about it baby, everything’s going to be okay.” The truth will set you free and Beal’s already been released.
Nobody knows. is out 9/10 via XL and you can also see Beal in the upcoming film Memphis which he wrote and recorded the soundtrack for. Listen here for “Coming Through”.
Willis Earl Beal excellent 2012 record Acousmatic Sorcery was an effortless mishmash of lo-fi bedroom pop, winsome folk, and visceral blues. “Everything unwinds.” the first cut from sophomore release Nobody Knows. floated light as a feather into the folkie camp. Backed by an interloping synth, Beal was delicately strumming a guitar with “rust in my soul,” while trying to define the mystery of the lover at the center of the unwinding spiral that has become his life.
Any tenderness found in the song is throttled by follow-up “Too Dry to Cry” a boot-stomping, faux delta-blues number that could’ve been pinned in 2013 or 1927. The opening guitar figure is dripping sweat from the sweltering Mississippi sun while Beal begs the Lord to not be left “hanging like a spider with no fly.” The song borders on the spiritual, but is kept out of the pearly gates by Beal’s wandering eye and his “pitchfork prong.” Like much of Beal’s scant discography, it’s a contradictory affair. His mind is on heaven, but his body’s still stuck on Earth.
Nobody knows. is scheduled for release September 10 via the XL label. Here’s the tracklist:
2. Coming Through ft. Chan Marshall
Willis Earl Beal’s debut 2012 record Acousmatic Sorcery was an entirely contradictory affair, one that saw Beal effortlessly gallivanting between tender lo-fi folk and throat shredding blues. As affecting as those down and dirty blues cuts were, it was the songs rendered in a whisper that made the most noise. “Evening’s Kiss” found Beal in confessional songwriter mode, sheepishly rattling off the line, “ask me who I’m with, and I’ll tell you I’m without.” That same sort of shy uncertainty was also festering in “Away My Silent Lover,” still one of my favorite tunes from 2012, with Beal verging on tears by the song’s end. If bedroom pop or folk had a torchbearer in 2012, it was Beal.
The first cut off his sophomore release Nobody knows., “Everything unwinds.” lonesomely drifts onto the folkie side of the fence. Beal’s voice resonates as if slithering up from a canyon, a simple chord progression pulling him up. Beal is still in a dejected state here, reflecting “you’re the one that I needed, and the reason I wept,” and a plodding synth line only furthers that loneliness. That synth is something that would’ve been alien to Acousmatic Sorcery, though here it’s a welcome companion to Beal’s dejection. The tape hiss may have disappeared, but the emotion is still in plain sight.