A modern American artist, Neal Casal is an internationally acclaimed musician and an accomplished photographer. A respected singer, songwriter and noted guitarist, he's also valued as a savvy collaborator, an inspired sideman and an authentic leader in his own right - a musical lifer, to be.
Born in New Jersey, he moved around a lot, living in places like Georgia and upstate New York before settling in Southern California. Charting steady artistic growth and personal evolution, he's made a series of substantial creative statements since his first solo recording, Fade Away Diamond Time in 1995. Besides a rich and prolific solo career showcasing a dozen critically lauded CDs, Casal has embraced a variety of projects with an ever- expanding circle of talented friends.
Casal's collaborative nature is one of his strengths and he's continued to bloom in the current decade. Most significantly, he's become an important member of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, touring extensively and recording with the band live and in the studio. Neal's experience, confidence and openness make him an ideal foil for Chris Robinson, and the pair co-wrote most of the songs for all three of the CRB studio albums, including the new Phosphorescent Harvest.
In working with committed, passionate groups like the CRB and Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Casal has pushed himself into musical realms beyond his comfort zone. His selfless playing has been the hallmark of a style groomed in service of the singer and the song. Rising to the demands of group improvisation, his capacity for collective jamming has increased, encouraging his fellow musicians and striving towards new peaks onstage and in the recording studio.
Over the years he has played with groups like Beachwood Sparks, The Jayhawks, Fruit Bats and Vetiver. He wrote and recorded three albums with Hazy Malaze, and produced "Ran On Pure Lightning" with Shannon McNally. Most notably, Casal was a full-fledged member of Ryan Adams & The Cardinals for several years, recording several albums including Easy Tiger, Follow The Lights, and Cardinology. This whirlwind period was doubly productive as he published the celebrated photo book Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows that documented his time with the band.
Studio time has been a consistently productive outlet for Casal. In the 1990s he developed a solid working relationship with Jim Scott, who produced several of his early recordings. More recently, Neal found rapport with Thom Monahan, who produced his 2012 solo disc Sweeten The Distance and all of the studio albums by the CRB.
Other Casal credits include recording the Songbird album with Willie Nelson as part of the Cardinals, performing on the Zoolander soundtrack with Rufus Wainwright, supporting a wide range of solo artists including Iris Dement, Lucinda Williams, Cass McCombs,Tift Merritt, Wanda Jackson, James Iha, and producing Jesse Aycock's 2014 CD Flowers & Wounds. He's also participated in movies like Starsky & Hutch and appeared in Country Strong.
Along with his music, Casal has fostered another mode of expression using photography. As one can see from his online photo journal, he's adept at chronicling a viewpoint on the road and at home, illuminating experiences as a traveler, musician, observer and beyond - resonating with the clear eyed-precision and quiet awareness of iconic photographers like Robert Frank and William Eggleston. Casal's music and photography showcase his collaborative nature, and the immersive process of playing, recording and touring with so many distinctive artists has clearly informed his visual work. Besides the publication of his photo book, Casal's images of Ryan Adams & The Cardinals have been featured on the band's recordings Easy Tiger, Follow The Lights, Cardinology, Class Mythology and Cardinals III/IV. His visual work has also graced the album covers of Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion's Bright Examples and Courtney Jaye's The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye. In 2008 he had a solo exhibition at the Bauhaus Gallery in Tokyo, and his photos have appeared in periodicals like Rolling Stone, MOJO, and Spin.
Musically, Casal's collaborative world continues to grow. In 2013 he joined singer Todd Snider, bassist Dave Schools, keyboardist Chad Staehly and drummer Duane Trucks in the formation of the Hard Working Americans, who recorded their eponymous debut at Bob Weir's TRI Studios. Already experienced in supporting personalities like Ryan Adams and Chris Robinson, Casal's connection with Todd Snider is quite natural. He simply sticks to the core of the song - balancing guitar artistry with craftsmanship and camaraderie to bring out the best in the band's sound.
Neal Casal's status as a go-to guitarist has increased and his experiences continue to dovetail. A friendship with Phil Lesh goes back some years, as the famed bassist wrote the forward to his photo book on the Cardinals. Since then Neal's appeared with Phil Lesh and Friends at Terrapin Crossroads alongside top-notch players like Joe Russo, Jeff Chimenti, Jimmy Herring and Warren Hayes. Within the Dead Zone; Casal also has a solid association with Bob Weir, appearing alongside Weir in the Jerry Garcia tribute film Move Me Brightly as well as the recent rockumentary The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip Of Bob Weir with eal listed as a composer.
- Mitch Myers.