A lot of the stories and information around Willis Earl Beal seem to be deliberately obscure…or at least obtuse, self-penned mythologies to distract from the real world actualities. Even the press release that came with the CD reads more like an existentialist work out rather than a summation of the facts. In a way I’m glad it does as it builds intrigue and avoids pre-judgement and as the music sucked me into to its heart, I did a bit of my own research on the man. Bizarrely, so many write up’s and reviews of his music seem to reference blues players from back in the day, but if that genre has had any affect on this album it is as a fleeting shadow passing through, a haunted feeling and a mournful delivery rather than in any technique or sound found here.
This is an album of meditative minimalism built of gossamer thin textures of soul and electronica, of music that exists mist-like, opaque and almost intangible. An ambient crooner skirting the edge of a Lynchian soundtrack, late night isolations channelled through a radio in an empty room, the sound of the spaces between music. It is also this understated platform that gives Beal’s considerable vocal talents the perfect place from which to take flight soaring, soulfully over the half heard music below.
It is an interesting album considering past releases and his reputation for tortured and intense live shows, but re-invention seems to be in his DNA and so it will be interesting to see what musical explorations make up the next chapter of this eclectic and unpredictable story.