Each Labor Day weekend, the fine folks at Club Congress host the city's biggest musical bash of the year. It runs Wed. Aug. 30-Sunday, Sept. 3. The Tucson Weekly is down with it.
We here at TW HQ so down with it we'll be doing drive-by previews like tequila shots of bands and artists performing the Hoco Fest, local and international. Here's Willis Earl Beal, or "Nobody" as he's called on the streets of Tucson. He's a must-see on Sunday Sept. 3.
Willis Earl Beal and The Thin White Duke chillin' in some Tucson barrio.
Willis Earl Beal is the real deal, kids. A Chicago-born blues singer with the prowess of R.L. Burnside (“I’ve got nine inches like a pitchfork prong, so honey lift up your dress and help me sing this song”), the gutsy imagination of, yes, Tom Waits (“I cruise through the flesh in my hotrod hearse”) and that all-important connection between brain, heart and throat too-rarely heard in singers today (on a duet with Cat Power, he blows Chan Marshall’s usually-arresting vocals out of the water.) Beal claps hands and plays spoons. He’s a student of African-American roots music the way that Old Crowe is of bluegrass or Gillian is of Americana. So no, there’s no corporate backing here, thank Christ, so he ain’t answering to anyone. Yet, his new, modern take on the devil’s music is swagger-y sexy, authentic, steeped in old Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon. You might have seen him on Tucson streets busking by the telling moniker of “Nobody,” wearing a Zorro cape and mask, but that ain’t no gimmick. He’s been lauded in newspapers the world over, but for, he says, for all the wrong reasons. We assume it’s all about the music, man. Since 2012 he’s released more than a dozen albums, singles and EPs. He's the best musical thing stationed in Tucson at the moment. Hope he chooses to hang here.