Neal Casal- Sweeten the Distance (The Royal Potato Family, April 2012)
My CD collection is heavy on honky tonk, the tail-shaking blues and soul infused variety. Many of my favorite love songs come cloaked in cynical wit and delivered with just the right amount of bad boy swagger, with vocals that tend more toward hoarse than pretty. On his latest release, Neal Casal presents eleven tracks of direct, unguarded expressions of emotion, all sung in a voice that can best be described as lovely and honest, and accompanied by some great playing and production. New musical territory for me, but I can tell you I like it.
Currently with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Casal spent a number of years as Ryan Adams’ lead guitar player with The Cardinals. Although much of this album, with its dreamy, retro, California psychedelic-pop sound (“White Fence Round House”, “Feathers for Bakersfield”) seems to reflect the musical influences of Casal’s adopted state, the judicious use of Jon Graboff’s pedal steel on the catchy refrains of “Need Shelter”, the power-pop intro to “Let it All Begin” and the harder driving edge of “Time and Trouble” and “So Many Enemies” hint at rock and alt-country.
Casal wrote all the songs on this release, and his skills as a lyricist are a good match for his beautiful vocals and killer guitar. Sweeten the Distance showcases a gifted musician. It would be difficult to pick a favorite, as each cut offers something different. Casal’s voice and subtle, but skilled guitar work shine on the slightly haunting “Bird with No Name”; the chorus of “Need Shelter” – “I don’t need to hide, but I do need shelter/I’ve been running wide awake too long/So if you take one chance on a two time loser/Never again will you be left alone” – is hard to shake. The album stays strong until the end, closing with the poignant “Angel and You’re Mine”. Sweeten the Distance underscores Casal’s strengths as a solo artist and is definitely worth a listen.
In Tulsa, you can catch Casal with The Chris Robinson Brotherhood on August 11 at the Cain’s Ballroom. Listen for Casal and CRB drummer, George Sluppick, on Jesse Aycock’s upcoming release.
-with permission from The Current