The anomalous means by which Willis Earl Beal came to national attention — a crudely drawn flier that made its way onto the cover of Found Magazine; a colorfully improbable, oft-repeated personal backstory — have generated an inevitable focus on the 28-year-old Chicagoan’s outsider-oddball status. And the scratchy, years-old home recordings presented on Acousmatic Sorcery (Hot Charity/XL) hardly discourage that emphasis. But while there’s no denying Beal’s eccentricity, there’s real artistry here, not just a freak show. Even with the makeshift instrumentation, rudimentary musicianship and nonexistent production values — Beal has professed some justifiable embarrassment about his songs seeing wide release in this form — his impressive stylistic range (raw, field-holler-like blues; gently poppy strummers; seasick Tom Waits surrealism; glinting lap-harp instrumentals; sing-song proto-hip-hop) and his commanding, richly soulful singing voice shine right through. His live show, if hopefully more deliberate in presentation, should be every bit as intimate — and it’s our best chance to glimpse beyond the folk-art-savant caricature.
Fri., Oct. 5, 9:30 p.m., $10-$12, with John the Conqueror, Daniel Ryan Belski, MilkBoy Philly, 1100 Chestnut St., 215-925-MILK, milkboyphilly.com.