Guitarist Neal Casal was recognized for his considerate, affected person taking part in fashion with teams like Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Ryan Adams’ Cardinals, and his personal Circles Across the Solar. When he died in 2019, he left behind a meticulously organized artistic archive. Along with his work in bands and as a session musician, the New Jersey native launched 12 solo albums and curated a set of greater than 25,000 pictures.
Each creative retailers determine prominently into the newly created Neal Casal Music Basis, a 501c3 nonprofit that goals to place musical devices, with classes on how you can play them, into the arms of kids, and supply mental-health help for artists by way of the MusiCares and Backline organizations. Casal took his personal life on August 26th, 2019, on the age of 50.
“If we are able to elevate some cash and assist any individual get via their life as a musician, that will be the most effective legacy we might depart in Neal’s identify,” says Gary Waldman, Casal’s supervisor and pal for the reason that Eighties and the driving power behind the Neal Casal Music Foundation (NCMF).
Together with cash from Casal’s royalties, funds raised throughout a September 2019 memorial live performance, and an ongoing Kickstarter campaign, Waldman is seeding the NCMF with proceeds from a brand new tribute album and a e-book of Casal’s pictures. Freeway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal, produced by Dave Faculties, is a piece in progress that assembles 30 artists to interpret Casal’s materials. Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Phil Lesh, Warren Haynes, Shooter Jennings, and Marcus King are among the many names already confirmed. Waldman hopes to have the album out subsequent spring, whereas Tomorrow’s Sky: Pictures by Neal Casal arrives in November.
Billy Strings, who joins Circles Across the Solar for a rendition of “All of the Luck within the World,” witnessed each of Casal’s crafts firsthand. He cites a Nashville live performance by Casal and Todd Snider’s band Onerous Working Individuals as an indelible reminiscence and counts pictures that Casal took of him performing onstage amongst his prized possessions.
“He had tasteful restraint. Once I go up onstage and play, I simply attempt to get it for every part I can and eat all of it up. Neal was in a position to sit again and select his notes so properly. He had that in spades. He might craft a really musical guitar solo,” Strings tells Rolling Stone. “His pictures will all the time stick out to me too. You bought an perception into what his thoughts was like. He was such a good looking individual, a good looking artistic thoughts.”
Jennings says Casal was all the time the primary participant he’d name for session work. Jennings recollects a guitar solo that Casal got here up with for “The Neverending Story,” a monitor on Jennings’ tribute album to electronic-music visionary Giorgio Moroder sung by Brandi Carlile. “As I bear in mind, it was solely a take or two. He had this in his head and made it leap round these loopy Giorgio chord modifications with such ease, like a tightrope walker. He was the king of those form of moments,” Jennings tells Rolling Stone. “He was a lot greater than a musician. He was a basis layer, and I all the time wished to incorporate him in each musical dreamhouse I used to be constructing.”
Casal obtained his first guitar, from his dad, when he was 13 and dedicated himself to mastering the instrument. A baby of the Eighties, he gravitated to heavy metallic at first, however leaned into basic rock and finally jam music after a mentor on the guitar store the place he labored suggested Casal that he didn’t “must be Eddie Van Halen,” in keeping with Waldman. He met his future lifelong supervisor in 1987 and he landed Casal an audition for Blackfoot, the Southern-rock outfit led by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke.
“I bought him the audition when he was 18, and we went out to Ann Arbor, Michigan, the place Blackfoot had been primarily based,” Waldman says. “Neal was so ready, and he knew each subtlety, knew each tone, each background vocal. He had that skill.”
Casal spent a lot of the Nineties carving out a solo profession, however obtained a profile increase when he joined the Cardinals, Ryan Adams’ rootsy backing band, in 2005. Collectively, they launched a string of albums, together with 2008’s Cardinology, and had been the studio group for Willie Nelson’s Adams-produced album Songbird. Casal additionally performed on Adams’ Simple Tiger and took the 2007 LP’s cowl photograph. In 2010, he launched a e-book of pictures that captured the Cardinals on tour and within the studio.
The upcoming Tomorrow’s Sky, produced by Jay Blakesberg and edited by his daughter Ricki Blakesberg, mixes related music pictures with pictures of browsing, a pastime of Casal’s, and snapshots from the highway.
“He’d stroll round with a digicam in each metropolis he went to and captured on a regular basis life. He had an important eye,” Waldman says.
After the Cardinals disbanded, Casal joined Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood and popped up typically with the Grateful Lifeless’s Phil Lesh, two associations that additional endeared him to the jam viewers. When the Lifeless staged their 2015 Fare Thee Effectively goodbye concert events, Casal composed the set-break instrumental music and launched the band Circles Across the Solar, with whom he performed up till his demise. His final performance was with the group at Lockn’ Pageant in Virginia, the place he wowed the gang with a solo that will have seemed off the cuff, however was most certainly thought-out all the way in which all the way down to the strings he threaded into his instrument.
“He considered every part: ‘Why are these guitar strings those I wish to use? Why this pedal?’” Waldman says, underscoring Casal’s dedication to no matter process was at hand. “Within the letter he left when he died, he talked about when he was 10 or 11 and wished to get into using BMX bikes. He mentioned, ‘I simply labored more durable at it than anyone.’”