Neal Casal : Sweeten the Distance

Listening to Neal Casal on his latest album, Sweeten the Distance, you can hear the poise that has led him to success backing the likes of Ryan Adams and Chris Robinson. On his own, though, his voice is often understated, stuck behind an unidentifiable plane between the listener and the singer. Though his voice is not the strongest element on the album, his true talent is found in the composition of his songs, which wind around an atmospheric haze that can bring you to Earth or send you soaring to the skies.

Casal recorded his first solo album, Fade Away Diamond Time, in 1995. Since then, he has toured and recorded with numerous artists, such as Beachwood Sparks, Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, Gin Wigmore and Rufus Wainwright. During the 2000s he was the lead guitarist of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, recording four albums and numerous tours before settling in with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. And the flurry of releases – both his own and those on which he has appeared – play out like a film real of his growth, culminating in this new release. From “Bird with No Name” to “Angel and You’re Mine,” he brings forth lyrical playfulness in abundance, though his vocals occasionally fail to capture the true beauty of what he has written.

On the album-opening title track, Casal croons over love that he longs for, and for which he has grown a deep appreciation. “Love may tear us apart/But it’s never gonna leave us behind,” he sings, offering a realistic view of the pitfalls of a broken heart.  On “Let It All Begin,” Casal searches for his place in the world. “Oh to be where I belong/To sleep there end of days/To know that I had nothing wrong/That my time was not in vain,” he sings. On “How Quiet it Got,” his guitar empowers a powerful expression of his lyrics and we find him, once again, bringing new found optimism to his music: “Everything has its price/Comes around once in your life/If you get lucky, just open wide/Open wide, open wide.”

As Neal Casal’s talent continues to shine, so too will his dynamic career.

Sweeten the Distance is out now on Royal Potato Family.