Music for the soul: Willis Earl Beal and Conner Youngblood

I’ve always been a fan of rock music first and foremost. There’s just something that moves me about the rawness of a good rock song (note I don’t count over produced slick 80s hair metal songs as good). But as I got older my tastes have widened somewhat. One of the things that made that happen was hearing Otis Redding screaming the outro to Try a Little Tenderness in a live version of that song. At that point it hit me – rock music isn’t the only music that’s powerful and can hit you like a tonne of bricks.

Last night I was in the Louisiana in Bristol to see Willis Earl Beal and Conner Youngblood, both of whom are outside my normal musical comfort zone, but both of whom played some good stuff.

Conner Youngblood’s are very light, breathy and reminiscent of Benjamin Francis-Leftwich, but where Benjamin plays stripped back acoustic numbers, Conner builds massive sounding songs from his one man effort by using a loop pedal to build up layers. He switched between a fizzy electric guitar sound to synthetic sounding keys to create a range of songs that could have been on dance or indie albums, whilst I think the whistling intro to his second song meant it could fit quite nicely on to a soundtrack of a western!

He managed to amalgamate the songs together impressively between songs, especially when used his loop pedal to switch tempo before his last song. The slick and professional nature of the performance hit home as I popped downstairs for a pint before Willis Earl Beal, where they were playing Nirvana’s version of Where Did you Sleep Last Night?, which sounded stark and raw in comparison.

Willis Earl Beal opened his set with a vibrato heavy guitar song and reverb heavy vocals. His voice is pretty awesome, he’s very powerful on deep low notes, which reminded me a bit of Otis Redding (hence the intro to the post). As a dubious singer myself, it was impressive stuff. His vocals continued in impressive vein in his second song, with the vibrato in his voice between the 2nd verse and chorus more than matching the guitar’s efforts in the previous song.

There were a few monologues at the start of the set, but they were in shorter supply after he commented on duality and asked “who is the audience and who is the artist?” A quick as a flash heckler produced “We’re definitely the audience – we paid for the tickets”.

There was some rare power in the bass coming through on a funkier effort, but less punch throughout the set as a whole. The vocals definitely were the most obvious on display, and to be fair they were pretty glorious!

It’s well worth checking out both artists, even if you’re a relatively single-minded music snob like me, you’ll be surprised in a good way.


About Dyfrig Williams

Music Bendigedig is a blog about the gigs I (Dyfrig Williams) get to go and see. I’m based in Cardiff, so most of the gigs I go to are here, with a few further afield. I don’t aim to be a critic – this is a music fan’s blog, written from that perspective.
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