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Neal Casal, The Luminaire, Kilburn, May 27th 2010

May 31, 2010

Neal Casal has been writing songs for himself and others for nearly two decades now, and has collaborated with many too, but he came very much into the limelight when he joined Ryan Adams and the Cardinals five years ago. That band looks to be on hold somewhat, as Ryan has gone off in whatever direction life takes him, so it’s a good time to check out Neal’s solo work.

He looks very much the part of the singer-songwriter as he takes the stage with fellow Cardinal and sidekick Jon Graboff (thanks to The Suit for the photo). In fact, his slight physical resemblance to James Taylor goes as far the voice, too, which is rich and warm. He begins with Don’t Mind The Black Clouds from last year’s album Roots And Wings and its fitting lyrics:
   Don’t let the people down, you’ve kept them waiting so long,
   They’d like to see you now, come on now,
   Don’t let the people down, go on and sing them a song,
   Don’t let the people down.

Neal said that, as he hadn’t played in the UK for a while, we could see the gig as a promo for Roots And Wings, and we also got So Far Astray, The Cold And The Darkness and Hereby The Sea from that album. This last shows the delicate folkie side of Neal’s work:
   But you’ll never know me, if you won’t believe in me,
   I’ve been gone too long, but things will be different this time.
   You’ll never know me, if you won’t be here with me,
   I’ve been blind too long, but now I’m gonna open my eyes.

Most of the music, though, is resolutely West Coast early 70s singer-songwriter, though ironically Neal (like James Taylor) is from the East Coast. He is relaxed and charming as a host, while Jon Graboff, known mostly for his pedal steel work, shows off his chops with some fine acoustic soloing, particularly in crowd fave Grand Island. Other older songs that went down well included Lost Satellite, Traveling After Dark and Maybe California, which teeters on the edge of singer-songwriter pastiche, but the players’ humour and verve see it through.

We were also treated to a number of songs from Neal’s forthcoming album Sweeten The Distance, including the title track and Let It All Begin. It was an entertaining show – nothing flash, nothing amazing, but just a friendly and well-executed journey through some very well-written songs. I was also pleased to see that he’s represented by More Barn Music – and if you don’t know why I like that, check back here

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