Neal Casal‘s debut record, Fade Away Diamond Time, was released in 1995 to much critical acclaim. Produced by Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash) in a sprawling mansion in the hills of Santa Ynez, California, the album introduced the intimate songwriting and lyrical guitar work that would become the foundation of his career. In between recording and touring with other artists such as Beachwood Sparks, Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, Gin Wigmore and Rufus Wainwright, Casal managed to record multiple solo releases, including 1996’s Rain, Wind, and Speed and 1998’s Basement Dreams, both of which have recently been reissued with discs of bonus material by Fargo Records. MOJO recently wrote, “What made [Basement Dreams] so compelling was the tone, the simplicity and economy with which Casal approached each song and the naturalness with which he inhabits them… pieces of singer-songwriter perfection.
Neal Casal’s 10th solo record, Sweeten the Distance, was recorded with noted producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, Pernice Brothers, Lavender Diamond). While listeners will recognize Casal’s strong yet understated vocals, his acoustic-driven melodies have been amplified by complex sonic layers, resulting in a new, expansive sound that is the culmination of this prolific songwriter’s multifaceted catalog.
Casal is also known as the lead guitarist of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, with whom he recorded four albums: Easy Tiger (which reached #7 on the Billboard chart), Follow the Lights, Cardinology and III/IV. His time in the band led to working with such luminaries as Willie Nelson and Phil Lesh and allowed another talent to be revealed when he released his first photography collection, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows. In this lavishly produced volume, Casal captured not only the exhilaration of the stage and studio but also the harsh realities of life on the road and the creative process. Internationally lauded for his thoughtful and evocative photography both of the Cardinals and of more personal subjects, Casal described the process of creating his photographs as “the songs I cannot write; the music I hear in my head, but can’t yet play.” His photos were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Bauhaus Gallery in Tokyo in 2008 and have appeared in many magazines, such as MOJO, Harp, Rolling Stone, and Spin.
After the Cardinals went on hiatus in 2009, Casal moved his home base from New York to Southern California, where he has worked on a variety of projects. He released the self-produced solo effort Roots & Wings, Connections–the third album by his rock-and-roll band Hazy Malaze – and played guitar on Ryan Adams’ newest release, Ashes And Fire.
In early 2011, Neal joined forces with Black Crowes’ frontman Chris Robinson’s new band, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, as lead guitarist. The band is currently working on their third studio album.