Modern music world shocked by Neal Casal’s death

Photo by Piper Ferguson

Neal Casal died at the age of 50. Photo by Piper Ferguson

On the evening of Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, decorated singer/songwriter/producer Neal Casal passed away at the age of 50. The news came as a shock to the modern music world.

Casal led a distinguished career over three decades, beginning with Ricky Medlocke’s Blackfoot in the late 1980s, to his debut solo album “Fade Away Diamond Time” in 1995, followed by nine other solo albums and additional live LPs.

Beyond that, Casal was a key figure in rock trio Hazy Malaze, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Skiffle Players, Hard Working Americans, GospelbeacH, guesting with Phil Lesh & Friends, and his cosmic jam band instrumental quartet born out of The Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” break music, Circles Around The Sun. Casal was also a part of many studio sessions and film/television scores.

Casal was additionally an accomplished photographer, lending cover and liner photos to such albums as Ryan Adams’ heralded “Easy Tiger” and GospelBeacH’s acclaimed “Another Summer of Love,” among others. In 2010, he released a photography book titled “Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows,” with a forward by Adams and afterword by The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh.

Casal will be remembered for his undying love of The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and being a master of many genres, from roots rock to folk, Americana, blues, country and psychedelia. His infectious, humble, warm personality made him a fan favorite wherever he went.

Casal was just in the studio with Circles Around The Sun, recording their follow up to last year’s “Let it Wander,” and performed this past weekend with Circles as well as Oteil & Friends (including Bob Weir) at the LOCKN’ Festival in Arrington, Virginia.

Chris Robinson sent his thoughts to Casal and his fans in a two-part message:

“Neal, I can’t believe I’m having to say goodbye to my friend and my brother. It’s almost too painful. When I think about the songs we’ve written, the shows we’ve played and all the laughs and great times we shared it’s almost unbearable to know you’re gone.

“All of us in this rock & roll life have had to say goodbye to too many people too soon. I can only wish that you’ve found your peace returning to the wisdom of the universe. I miss you so much already, Neal. I’ll see you again, someday past the sunset”

— Jon Siembieda

From the archives:

— Album review: “Servants of the Sun” rises brilliantly on the horizon.

— Circles Around The Sun: Neal Casal talks about the “Interludes For The Dead”

Tahoe Onstage

Neal Casal on guitar for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood in 2018 at Crystal Bay.
Clare Foster / Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

This photo was taken months before the musicians were named Circles Around The Sun.
Photo provided to Tahoe Onstage courtesy of Neal Casal

About Jon Siembieda

Writer Jon Siembieda plays guitar in the Southern California-based touring rock 'n' roll band Hunter & The Dirty Jacks. He is an avid concertgoer and album collector. His top five favorite bands are The Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Faces, Mother Hips and Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

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