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Willis Earl Beal: The hip crowd's new diamond in the rough

Willis Earl Beal

Andre Csillag / Rex Features/Andre Csillag / Rex Features

Will Lady Gaga make you a drawing? Probably not, unless your name is Justin Bieber. Will Justin Bieber serenade you by Skype? Probably not, unless you are Lady Gaga. You should know about the soulful and unusual Willis Earl Beal, an untouched singer-songwriter from Chicago who will do things that the famously fan-friendly stars will not. Yes, apparently he'll sing you a song if you call him (773-295-2135) or scrawl you a picture if you write him (P.O. Box 471881, Chicago, IL, 60647).

He absolutely will perform for you on Monday at the Drake Hotel, where his uniquely sociable act is to be showcased. Mr. Beal is a bluesman like few have heard – a Daniel Johnston type savant, approved by Pitchfork, and signed to same XL label that is home to Radiohead, Adele and the late Gil Scott-Heron.

Acousmatic Sorcery is his irresistible debut album, an amateurish but mesmerizing collection of soul-scarred blues and stuff that is more enraged from an artistic, depressed man – the hip crowd's new diamond in the rough, the urban folklorist's needle in the hay.

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"Ask me who I'm with," he explains on the affecting melancholy of Evening's Kiss, "and I'll tell you I'm without." Perhaps not for much longer. –B.W.

Willis Earl Beal plays April 30, 8 p.m. $13.50 to $15. Drake Underground, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-537-1620 or 416-504-8447.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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