Highly listenable Texas folk/country from a “lost” album.
Those of you reading this who have heard of, or are familiar with, Will Beeley should award yourselves a gold star for Americana musical knowledge. Throughout the 1970’s, he was part of the Austin music scene and a contemporary of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, but unlike these luminaries, his life took a very different direction. He recorded and issued two albums, ‘Gallivantin’’ in 1971 and ‘Passing Dream’ in 1979, neither of which set the world on fire commercially.
In addition to his records he played gig after gig, and for a while at least, hoped for the big time but in the early 80’s, after failing to achieve the commercial recognition his music deserved, he put down his guitar, retired from the music business and became a long-distance trucker and with his wife by his side, spent many years traversing the long open roads of the US. Then, as it does from time to time, life took a strange twist and in 2017 Tompkins Square, an American label specialising in releasing old, almost forgotten records, reissued to some acclaim, new editions of Beeley’s two ‘70s albums and in 2019 encouraged by the response and after a 40 year hiatus, Beeley recorded and issued ‘Highways and Heart Attacks’, gaining further recognition and commendation.
That brings us to date and the release of ‘1970 Sessions’. Will Beeley recorded this album as a follow up to his debut, ‘Gallivantin’’. Never released until now, the album was used as an audition tape for interested labels and for those fascinated by the history, Beeley would eventually sign to Malaco Records. This recording is over 50 years old and one of the more charming aspects to it (aside from the music) is the presence of good old fashioned analogue tape hiss and Tompkins Square should be congratulated for leaving the recording as original as possible and not attempting to digitally edit out that background.
‘1970 Sessions’ is clearly a product of its time, and it’s not hard to find echoes of Townes on a number of the tracks; but that doesn’t mean that Will Beeley is simply a copycat artist as he has much to say about the societal issues which existed then and which still (unfortunately) exist today with songs like ‘Color Of The Soul Of Man’ reflecting tensions around race and colour. It would be unfair to judge ‘1970 Sessions’ by modern-day styles and standards, and some may find it dated, but that’s not the point: this is a look back into the past and regardless of what standard you want to hold it to, it’s still a fine album. If you enjoy the Folk/Outlaw Country vibe, then you could do much worse than seeking out not only ‘1970 Sessions’ but Will Beeley’s three previous releases and in particular ‘Passing Dream’.