Now the gaze of the globe is pointing through every screen in the planet we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, insiders, which means that the outsider artist is an endangered species. XL-signed blues signer Willis Earl Beal is brilliant then, simply for his existence. A man without an email address whose buzz-building extended to leaving cassettes on cafe tables around Chicago and whose social media campaign was singing down the phone to whoever called the number left on his posters.
His output is out there, in every sense. The album is a wild listen, jarring in points, diffident in production, with bold flashes of hard soul, it’s one of the weirdest records of this young decade, at least released on a large label. No one is making music like this in the world, which puts the out in out there. But there’s also the there – this is music made by someone connected to the world as a lived reality, music shaped by a limited sphere, directly stemming Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and Mark E Smith with the native soul of Chicago’s streets. The video above, drawn in pencil by Willis himself, is further evidence of this most unique music.