Guitarist Neal Casal 1968 – 2019
Neal Casal, a co-founding member of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Circles Around the Sun, The Cardinals and numerous other projects has died at age 50. Casal’s death was confirmed by a note posted on his social media feeds:
It’s with great sadness that we tell you our brother Neal Casal has passed away. As so many of you know, Neal was a gentle, introspective, deeply soulful human being who lived his life through artistry and kindness. His family, friends and fans will always remember him for the light that he brought to the world. Rest easy Neal, we love you.
A representative for Casal told Pitchfork Neal died by suicide and his body was found on Monday night.
The New Jersey native received an Ovation Applause acoustic guitar as a Christmas gift from his father at age 13 and immediately started taking lessons. In the late ’80s, he became a member of Blackfoot, a band featuring Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynrd. Casal’s tenure in Blackfoot spanned from 1988 to 1992. Casal then focused on solo work and released a series of studio albums that included 1995’s Fade Away Diamond Time, 1996’s Rain, Wind And Speed, 1997’s Field Recordings and 1998’s Basement Dreams.
Neal went back to the band route, while always keeping the door open for solo ventures, starting in 2002 when he formed Hazy Malaze with future CRB bassist Jeff Hill and drummer Dan Fadel. In 2005, Ryan Adams recruited Casal for his Ryan Adams & The Cardinals project. The guitarist contributed to all five Ryan Adams & The Cardinals albums and toured the world as part of the group.
While Adams turned his attention to other projects in the early 2010s, Casal became a founding member of The Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson’s Chris Robinson Brotherhood in 2011. The group was supposed to be a side project for Robinson while The Crowes were on hiatus, yet soon became his main focus. The CRB toured extensively ever since while releasing seven albums, the most recent of which — Servants Of The Sun — came out in June. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood began an indefinite hiatus last month with the future of the group unclear.
A fortuitous opportunity came to Neal in 2015, when Justin Kreutzmann asked Casal to put together original music that would be played over the P.A. at setbreaks of the Fare Thee Well – Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead concerts. The music Neal wrote and recorded with a bunch of friends under the moniker Circles Around The Sun was so well received, an album featuring the songs was released later that year and in 2016 the band made their live debut at the Lockn’ Festival. Casal had begun to focus on Circles Around The Sun recently and the instrumental quartet performed again at Lockn’ this past weekend.
Casal was also a founding member of the short-lived Hard Working Americans supergroup and played a number of concerts as part of Phil Lesh & Friends and Oteil & Friends. Neal was also an acclaimed photographer who shot cover art for a handful of albums and had his work published in magazines worldwide. Head here for dozens of tributes to Neal Casal.