Will Beeley – Highways & Heart Attacks – His first album in 40 years !
No Depression Review
** Q&A and live performance at Grimey’s, Nashville on Sept 12th, 2pm. FREE ! Will in conversation with Edd Hurt, Nashville Scene. **
Texas singer-songwriter Will Beeley came up in the Austin scene of the 70’s with Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. His two 70’s LPs were reissued by Tompkins Square in 2017. The new album was recorded by 5-time Grammy winner Joe Trevino (Flaco, Los Lobos), produced by Jerry DeCicca (Larry Jon Wilson), features Michael Guerra (The Mavericks), and was mixed by Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn’s ‘Van Lear Rose’).
HIGHWAYS & HEART ATTACKS is a remarkable return from a singer-songwriter whose work might well have been lost to dusty record crates and the secret annals of Americana musical history. But with Tompkins Square’s 2017 reissues of Beeley’s two stunning albums, 1971’s Gallivantin’ and 1979’s Passing Dream, the Texas-based troubadour finally earned the applause his distinctive songcraft long deserved, with Noisey praising his “deeply felt, little heard, folk music” and Paste noting, “With the re-release of these fine LPs, we can spend some time more fully appreciating them before (Beeley’s) very welcome return to the music world.”
“The music business is one of those things where you expect it to happen now,” Beeley says. “When it takes 40 years to happen, it kind of makes you sit back and go, I’m surprised it ever happened.”
Born at Southern California’s March Field Air Force Base, Beeley traveled the world with his family before they finally settled down in San Antonio, TX. His natural love of music was further fueled watching Townes Van Zandt performing regularly at local bars and honky tonks, inspiring him to try his own hand at singing and playing songs for a living. Though only 200 copies were printed and sold from the stage and back of Beeley’s car, 1971’s stark Gallivantin’ was undeniably marked by Beeley’s emerging lyrical voice, comparable to such contemporary Lone Star State peers as Van Zandt and Michael Martin Murphey. Beeley signed an artist contract with the Mississippi-based soul label, Malaco Records, recording sessions in 1971 and 1973, with a single released in 1974.
Beeley was then given a release to concentrate on his songwriting but in 1977, he reunited with Malaco and backed by the label’s house band – which by a stroke of good fortune included such young Texas studio musicians as guitarist Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), keyboardist Carson Whitsett (Paul Simon, Z.Z. Hill), and drummer James Stroud (Mickey Newbury, Eddie Rabbit) – recorded Passing Dream. The LP saw Beeley taking a far more ambitious approach than his debut, imbuing his deeply personal songcraft with an edgy psychedelic outlaw energy. Most strikingly, Beeley’s singing voice had evolved, colored by experience and struggle.
“But nothing ever happened,” he says. “It just kind of dissolved. I was pretty discouraged.”
Beeley withdrew from his own musical career and went about the business of real life, raising a family in New Mexico whilst working as an over the road truck driver. His guitar and pen sat untouched for years, his dreams of being a working musician long relegated to his personal back pages. But when Tompkins Square reached out about reissuing Gallivantin’ and Passing Dream, Beeley was inspired once again. He reached out to Tompkins Square founder Josh Rosenthal, wondering if the label might be interested in new material. The answer was of course an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ and plans were made for Beeley to hit the studio for the first time in nearly four decades.
Recorded at San Antonio’s Blue Cat Studios with producer Jerry David DeCicca (Chris Gantry, Ed Askew, Larry Jon Wilson), GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Joe Trevino (Flaco Jimenez, Los Lobos, Los Texmaniacs), and GRAMMY® Award-winning mix engineer Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, Cat Power, Phosphorescent), HIGHWAYS & HEART ATTACKS sees Beeley backed by a combo of Americana all-stars that includes accordionist Michael Guerra (The Mavericks), guitarist Don Cento (Sarah Jaffee), bassist Canaan Faulkner (The Black Swans, Ed Askew), drummer Armando Aussenac (Neon Indian), organist Richard Martin, and GRAMMY® Award-winning violinist Bobby Flores (Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm, Willie Nelson). Songs like “Been A Drifter” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” are both wistful and warm-hearted, Beeley’s rough-hewn vocals the ideal vehicle for his one-of-a-kind tales of a road well traveled and a surprise ending hard earned.
“I feel this is really the best stuff I’ve written,” Beeley says. “I recorded Passing Dream more than 40 years ago. I’m just thankful I got another chance to go in the studio and lay down some more of my tunes.”