I first wrote about the inspiring story of Chicago street musician Willis Earl Beal last year, during the time when his beautiful first record Acoumastic Sorcery came out. Beal was largely homeless and a wanderer at that time. To make do, he began posting flyers with his phone number offering to sing you a song or draw you a picture. The flyers were discovered by Found Magazine who then published it as their lead story. One thing lead to another (even a stint with Simon Cowell’s X-Factor) before Beal got signed to major indie label XL Recordings who promptly put out Beal’s self-recording of Acoumastic Sorcery.
Now a year later, Beal is ready to formally display his talent with Nobody knows., his proper follow-up record. While Acoumastic Sorcery was largely recorded by Beal himself using a karaoke machine and is limited by its lo-fi origin, Nobody knows. finds Beal with access to actual recording production. With a superior set-up, the focus can now be put squarely on Beal’s soulful voice as he sings and confesses over the blues. Nobody knows. is a haunting mournful record that feels personal and gritty because you know that Beal actually persevered through all that hardship to get here.
Check out Coming Through, Beal’s beautiful duet with Cat Power embedded below.
Willis Earl Beal – Nobody knows. comes out 9/10 XL Recordings / Hot Charity (order here)