My latest discovery obsession is Willis Earl Beal, a Chicago native with a voice full of soul and grief and loneliness. You'd swear it was recorded decades ago by an aging bluesman, but this is a young cat who's just getting started. Homeless and unable to afford a proper recording studio, he recorded his debut album last year on a karaoke machine.
I've been really digging Laura Marling's latest album, "Once I Was An Eagle," since it dropped back in May. She's a ferociously mature 23-years-old and recorded the entire album in a single day. What I like most about her delivery is how she dances along that line between fragile and strong. She has a delicate guitar style and a confident but crystalline vocal sound, with lyrics that vacillate between vulnerable and powerful.
She reminds me of something Tom Waits once said: "I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things." It's all about contrast.