Neal Casal, Chris Robinson Brotherhood Guitarist, Dies
Neal Casal, a guitarist who played with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Phil Lesh and Willie Nelson, has died at the age of 50. No information was given on the cause of death.
The news was revealed on Casal's Facebook page. "It’s with great sadness that we tell you our brother Neal Casal has passed away," reads a message. "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."
"I can’t believe I’m having to say goodbye to my friend and my brother. It’s almost too painful," Robinson wrote on Twitter. "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."
A native of Danville, N.J., Casal started playing guitar when he received one as a Christmas present when he was 12. He gravitated toward the music of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, not just because of their songs, but also how they influenced the culture. "Those groups opened my eyes and ears to the best music, literature, film and art of all kinds," Casal told Brooklyn Bowl in 2016.
"Those groups were led by deeply intelligent and creative people, so I bought every record and book that they ever spoke about in their interviews, and tried to follow their instructions on how to dig in and do good work."
Casal was a member of Blackfoot from 1988-93, playing on their 1991 album Medicine Man. He then embarked on a career as both a solo artist and session musician before beginning a stint in Ryan Adams' backing band the Cardinals between 2003 and 2009. From there, he moved on to become the founding lead guitarist for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, playing on all of their albums.
During downtime, Casal continued solo and session work, and also formed side projects like the Hard Working Americans, Hazy Malaze and the Skiffle Players. Another group of his, Circles Around the Sun, was formed to compose music that was played before and during the breaks of the Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well shows in 2015.
Casal was also an avid photographer and shot several album covers on which he's played. In 2010, he published a book of pictures taken during his time in Adams' band called Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows.