Willis Earl Beal proved a live revelation when he first emerged early last year; an arrestingly powerful voice that oozed soul paired with genuine stage presence to make his debut solo record one of the year’s most exciting prospects. Beal’s back story was like a Hollywood movie, including plot twists that involved homelessness, an army discharge, becoming an American Idol boot camp drone and getting drunk in front of Simon Cowell. Unfortunately, the same enigmatic nature that had helped build buzz for him didn’t extend to ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’, an incredibly lo-fi effort (recorded on a Fisher Price karaoke machine) as bizarre in its execution as it was criminal in its underuse of his true vocal talents. ‘Nobody Knows’ provides the opportunity for Beal to atone, with greater resources at his disposal, and thrillingly he delivers.

‘Wavering Lines’ is a restrained way to open – only a smattering of strings punctuate what would otherwise be a restrained a capella – but he’s on dramatic form elsewhere, howling over marching-band drums on ‘Burning Bridges’ and strutting his way through the gospel-tinged ‘2 Dry 2 Cry’. A collaboration with Cat Power ultimately disappoints – she’s reduced to backing vocals – but it does little to detract from the spectacular fashion in which Beal has delivered on his promise with his second record.


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