Get drawn deep into his shadowy world
“Write to me and I will make you a drawing.” So states the handwritten press release for Willis Earl Beal’s debut single, ‘Evening’s Kiss’. Further down there’s a phone number (001 773 295 2135). “Call me”, it says, “and I will sing you a song”. The Chicagoan has been hiding himself away for the past four years, picking up famous and not-so-famous devotees as a result of leaving his fractured but often brilliant home-recorded CDs around public places. He’s kind of like Jandek meets the real-life, male, soul-stirring version of Audrey Tautou’s Amélie in the film of the same name – all about mystery and with just as alluring a backstory as the French enigma.
The newest signing to XL (via freshly launched imprint Hot Charity), his debut single is an ever-so-slightly cleaned-up version of one of those early songs. We say ‘slightly’ because it’s in no way polished – Willis strums harshly at a battered guitar, and background hiss cuts through like a razor. Then he whispers a heroically sad tale of denied love and loneliness. Sure, Willis might initially seem like just another dude with a voice, but he’s roughly a billion times more captivating than the legion of lightweight singer-songwriter bozos who rule the mainstream at present. Listen to him, pick up your phone and get drawn deep into his shadowy world…