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Rising Chicago Musicians Offer Throwback Sounds

Four local acts put a twist on a timeless style—and all hit the stage this summer

(page 2 of 4)

Willis Earl Beal


After serving a stint in the army and working a security job at the Sears Tower, this Englewood native began making music after he grew frustrated with being jobless and homeless for a while. “You yell at the sky enough, and it starts to sound like music,” he says. People began paying attention after he put up fliers in Chicago with his drawings, his cell phone number, and an offer to serenade anyone who called.

Eventually this odd gambit led to a deal with XL Recordings (home to Adele and Radiohead). His first album, Acoustamatic Sorcery, out in April, sounds like something you might hear on an AM station pulling at a distant frequency late at night. Working with instruments he rummaged up—cheap guitars, a lap harp, pots and pans—Beal recorded a lo-fi cocktail of folk, soul, and gospel on a karaoke machine. The album is admittedly rough, Beal says, so don’t judge him on that alone. His recent live performances better reflect his intentions, he argues. “The sound is more dynamic. You can understand what I mean.”

SONG TO SAMPLE: “Away My Silent Lover”
SHOW TO SEE: Pitchfork Music Festival on July 13. For info, pitchfork.com


13 Chicago Concerts to Buy Tickets for Now | Kelly Hogan’s New Album: Made the Old-Fashioned Way
The Perfect Summer Playlist | Inside the Mind of Pitchfork Impresario Mike Reed



Photograph: Lisa Predko; Photo Assistants: Joanna Patterson, Lauren Butterfield, Lyndon French; Intern: Katie Donajkowski


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