Local phenom Willis Earl Beal is gearing up for the release of his second proper album, Nobody Knows, which comes out September 10 on Hot Charity/XL Recordings. So far Beal has dropped a couple tunes from that album, “Too Dry to Cry” and “Everything Unwinds”, and both show how he’s transformed his charming antifolk style into a lush experimental pop sound that draws from soul, blues, R&B, and also highlights Beal’s powerful, dynamic, and raw voice. Beal’s sound isn’t the only thing that’s changed since I first introduced him to the world with a B Side cover story two years ago; he’s since moved to NYC, but the dude still has a lot of love for Chicago, and Schubas will host his record release show on Friday, September 6.

To prepare for that show and the release of Nobody Knows we’ve got an exclusive stream of a one-off song Beal made with another idiosyncratic Chicago musician—Brian Wharton, aka cult rapper Sharkula. The tune is called “Sad Sam,” and you can download it for free below.

Beal has long admired Sharkula, and it’s been a pleasure to witness their friendship develop since my feature on Beal hit the streets. When Beal opened for Cat Power at the Vic last fall Sharkula played his impromptu hype-man, standing on the side of the stage and waving his hands in the air throughout most of the performance. “Sad Sam” came together shortly after that show; Beal recorded the spooky, lumbering tune at his home in New York and sent it to Sharkula to add in madcap rhymes about Halsted Street, Clueless actress Stacey Dash, and, um, “alligator booty beats.” I’ve been waiting to hear “Sad Sam” since Sharkula first told me about it back in May, and it’s pretty clear those two had fun creating the tune. Check it out for yourself, and here’s hoping Sharkula plays it at his 40th birthday party at Cafe Mustache on Friday, August 30.


Right-click to download “Sad Sam.”