The High Hawks Release New Single ‘When The Dust Settles Down’: Exclusive Video Premiere

By Andy Kahn Jun 8, 2021 11:20 am PDT

Supergroup The High Hawks shared a new single, “When the Dust Settles Down,” from their upcoming self-titled debut album coming out this Friday, June 11. JamBase is pleased to exclusively premiere a video for the track that was written by Chad Staehly in honor of his late former Hard Working Americans bandmate Neal Casal.

Staehly is joined in The High Hawks by Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, Horseshoes and Hand GrenadesAdam Greuel, DeadPhish Orchestra’s Brian Adams and Great American Taxi’s Will Trask. The members have several musical connections as Herman and Staehly toured for years with Trask and Great American Taxi, crossing paths with Carbone at DelFest in 2005. Carbone went on to produce two of the group’s subsequent albums. Staehly produced the band’s 2020 album.

Among the songs on the 13-track The High Hawks is “When the Dust Settles Down,” which was written by Staehly immediately after Casal’s tragic death by suicide in August 2019. Casal and Staehly spent time together as members of the supergroup Hard Working Americans along with Todd Snider, Jesse Aycock and Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools and Duane Trucks.

“That night [of Casal’s death] after multiple phone calls and lots of tears I turned to a notebook and grabbed a pen,” Staehly wrote in an essay regarding the song. “Some words were wanting to try to come out. Music has always been an emotional outlet. I haven’t written a ton of songs or anything, always fancied myself more of a bandmate and keyboard player than anything else. I hadn’t written a song in a couple of years but something was welling up inside of me. I believe it’s Buddhism that believes the spirit lingers for a while after death. Without trying to sound crazy, I could feel Neal’s spirit close by and I started writing to mourn his passing.”

The High Hawks comes out this Friday, June 11 (pre-order here). The video for “When The Dust Settles Down,” as well as Staehly’s entire essay regarding Casal, follow exclusively below:

It was one of those late-night phone calls where the phone is ringing and you dread picking it up because you can sense it’s bad news on the other end of the line. My gut reaction was confirmed when I answered the call coming in from our tour manager Brian Kincaid who was crying on the other end of the line and just repeating “Neal… Neal… Neal, man… Neal is gone.”

At first, it was just confusion and then shock and then a profound sadness from what I was being told. I wanted to know what happened, I wanted to comfort Brian, I wanted to verify that this was all true. Then the phone started ringing from other bandmates and friends. It was in fact true, our bandmate, road brother and friend had taken his own life and was no longer with us. I was supposed to meet up with Neal in Nashville a day or two later to start rehearsing for a new band we had put together to go out with Todd Snider, it was going to be a fresh start for all of us.

I hadn’t seen Neal for almost a year to the day, I had booked the Chris Robinson Brotherhood to play a street festival in my hometown. Neal and I had spent the afternoon together and he started to tell me that the end was in sight for CRB. I could tell he was bummed about it, he had dedicated himself to that band, he really believed in it. He had passed up many other opportunities including continuing on with our band, Hard Working Americans. I could tell he was feeling a bit let down and that he was wondering what would be next for him. What would be next, I thought to myself, I mean Neal was becoming arguably the most in-demand guitar player in the country and one of the most renowned. Despite knowing he was bummed at the time, I didn’t think much of it.

Several months later he called and said he’d be available to go out and work if there were any opportunities. I didn’t think much of that either, Circles Around The Sun was becoming one of the most talked-about bands in the jam scene and Neal always had other work around Los Angeles and beyond when he wasn’t on the road. Neal’s endless talent and years of dedication were paying off in big ways, at least that’s what I saw from the outside looking in. We did end up making some plans to go out and play, it was going to be Neal, myself, Jesse Aycock from Hard Working Americans on bass guitar and Ken Coomer on drums to head out with Snider. Coomer was the first drummer in Wilco, this band was going to be hot and we had Snider’s entire song catalog at our disposal. Spirits seemed high as to where it all could go.

Where it all could go is probably the thing we as musicians hang onto the most to keep us going. I had gone through that experience with Neal when we started Hard Working Americans. We recorded an album with plans to just play a handful of shows to support the album release. Out of the gate the album sessions, the first rehearsals for the first tour, the first shows were all red hot and it was undeniable we had something special going on. Plans were made for more shows, more recording and more fun. As “lifer” musicians most of us go through these cycles of starting over. Neal had told me early on in our HWA days that he was married to music and the lifestyle of being on the road. It’s tough to have a home life, a wife or partner, a family, etc. when you are a “lifer.”.

I think at some point we all get far enough down the road and it seems like there’s no turning back. What the hell else would you go do if you weren’t playing music? It starts to get more difficult to restart another band or consider another career. I’m not saying Neal had to consider any of that, like I said, he was one of the most in-demand guitar players around. I don’t know for sure what was going through Neal’s head, he had just finished another great weekend at LOCKN’ festival where he played every day in multiple bands. He had just flown back to his beautiful hometown of Ventura, California to have a handful of days at home before we were going to meet up in Nashville. He probably had some plans to go surfing, which he did any chance he got when he was home.

Maybe it was the idea of heading back out on the road again so soon and trying to start a new project once again. Maybe he was just tired and felt he had done all he set out to do. I had watched Neal for the first four or five years I knew him literally get off one tour bus and onto another. He worked his ass off, he’d maybe get a few days home in between tours and he’d be in the studio cutting guitar tracks for someone or producing an album for somebody. Neal was the real deal, talent every which way. I remember being blown away by every guitar part he played on the first HWA album, watching him stack harmony vocals and sing all the parts, lead the band musically, and be a leader by great example. He had all the tools in his toolbox. I could see why the best of the best were after him to play with them.

That night after multiple phone calls and lots of tears I turned to a notebook and grabbed a pen. Some words were wanting to try to come out. Music has always been an emotional outlet. I haven’t written a ton of songs or anything, always fancied myself more of a bandmate and keyboard player than anything else. I hadn’t written a song in a couple of years but something was welling up inside of me. I believe it’s Buddhism that believes the spirit lingers for a while after death. Without trying to sound crazy, I could feel Neal’s spirit close by and I started writing to mourn his passing.

First the words started pouring out and then a melody started to form along with some chords. It felt as though someone else was coming up with the song, it felt like Neal was pulling me along on it. I had never had that experience or never had a song come out so complete and in such a short amount of time. I am not necessarily saying this was divine intervention, I don’t know what it was and I never know if a song I write is any good. I do know something happened that night.

I hope Neal digs the song wherever his spirit might be, I hope the dust has settled down for him and he’s digging into writing more songs of his own. He was a brilliant songwriter in his own right, a masterful guitar player, and a good friend and bandmate. Neal was our Buddha on the road, never too high, never too low, always up for a jam and digging into some songs. He was a musicologist of the highest order, knew anything and everything about contemporary music from the 1950s to the present day. I learned a lot from Neal and hope he knows how much I appreciated him.

This one is for you, Neal. I love you dearly.

Thanks to my friends in The High Hawks for helping make something out of the song, they’re all a bunch of “lifers.”

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