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Sweeten The DistanceThe first line of the title track on Neal Casal's tenth studio effort Sweeten The Distance says much about where the storied singer/songwriter/guitarist finds himself in his career: Nothing's gonna stop you now, everything you want is coming in good time. After 20-plus years of writing songs, recording albums and touring the world, there's a confidence and patience in his latest work that reveals an artist in full creative flight.
Produced by Thom Monahan (Fruit Bats, Devendra Banhart, Vetiver), Sweeten The Distance is indeed a defining moment in Casal's discography. Rich acoustic textures and sophisticated melodies of songs like Bird With No Name, and Need Shelter and Gyrls of Wynter give way to a psyched-out ambience on White Fence Round House, Feathers for Bakersfield and How Quiet It Got.
The depth of production, with its purposefully layered sounds and oceanic atmospherics, makes Sweeten The Distance as much a multi-dimensional headphone experience as a soul-stirring modern songwriter record. And as such, Casal emerges as an essential voice in the new cosmic California movement.
In addition to his critically acclaimed solo work, Neal Casal made a name for himself as the lead guitarist in Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, with whom he recorded four albums: Easy Tiger, Follow the Lights, Cardinology and III/IV. Currently he serves as a central component of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood with whom he contributes lead guitar and vocal harmonies. Over the last year, Casal also added guitar and vocals to Ryan Adams Ashes & Fire, Fruit Bats Tripper, The Jayhawks Mockingbird Time, Vetiver The Errant Charm and a forthcoming recording by Beachwood Sparks.1. Sweeten The Distance
2. Bird With No Name
3. Need Shelter
4. Let It All Begin
5. White Fence Round House
6. So Many Enemies
7. Feathers For Bakersfield
8. Time & Trouble
9. How Quiet It Got
10. The Gyrls of Wynter
11. Angel and Youre Mine$17.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Rest In ChaosLet me explain what it's like to summarize Rest in Chaos. What you have here is, in the first place, the book of Genesis as deftly reconceived by Todd Snider who has been inhabited by a spirit resembling Philip K. Dick. The rest of the Hard Working Americans are under the direction (or perhaps in the thrall) of an older wiser Jimi Hendrix and a Frank Zappa no less exacting than he was when he departed. It is rock'n'roll music, past, present and future, and that's no dream, it's just a fact. There are moments here when the walls of Babel might be falling, there are moments when they are reinvented and every time you try to pin it down, it shows you something else. "Half Ass Moses," the third song, ends by declaring "The song wasn't all that complicated."
Like hell it isn't. When, in the very next song, "Dope is Dope," Todd Snider is a voice more inflammatory and gritty than I have ever heard from him before, "His mother didn't understand him / Whose mother ever does?" am I supposed to laugh, cry, applaud or beg for mercy. All that's really sure is, you're not leaving 'til the show's over. Even if you want to. There's nowhere else to go, and even if there were, the music's too good.
So much for metaphysics. The actual physics of the thing is seven billion people out for what they only think is a stroll, armed with nothing more than some quite treacherous Roman candles Rest in Chaos might, if these Hard Working Americans were scientists of something other than sound, be the story of the entropy of the universe, and if you think I'm kidding that's only because you haven't taken the deep dive into its complexity, which if not quantum is at least a quandary. Albums aren't this good anymore; they're not this ambitious; their parts are not so finely conceived, the risks they take are not so reckless, the ways they resolve contradictions are not so elegant. Most of all they don't kick you in the preconceptions anywhere near so often. (How did they manage to create harmonies in "Something Else" that recall both the Hollies and the Mothers of Invention?)
Todd's songs sound like he swiped part of them from Billy Joe Shaver and part from Tim Buckley and welded them together with spare parts from Iggy and Paul McCartney. There's a nightmare embedded here, and what cares the weight of it, the aspect of doom and the hint of doom is Dave Schools' bass. Neal Casal, who might be the most under-rated guitarist in rock, is constantly making the chaos more beautiful than you'd think possible. The roots of the sound are in the jam bands and Americana groups and singer-songwriter sessions the band members have played in but when they get to "Throwing Goats" (OK, maybe I should have said Thomas Pynchon or John Barth rather than Dick) and "Something Else" (both parts), they've joined the ranks of the rockers who no longer look for interstellar overdrive, because they've already found it.
All this is, of course, metaphor. Well, most of it. Some of it. The part about how strong it is, how smart, how completely the product of the past ("stand up for your brother, stick it to the man") and how anticipatory of one of the best futures anyone has shown us is straight up. It's one of the most well-sustained albums I've heard in years, and what it sustains is not only my faith in rock'n'roll or even how hard the Hard Working Americans really do work to make their magic, but how much it means to them, which is the only way it can mean very much to the rest of us.
Let me put it this way: I've heard Rest in Chaos any number of times and there's no way I'm done with it. I can tell you about its surface but I haven't gotten to the bottom of it. I'm not really sure there is one. It is humbling to confront it, and reassuring to know that there is all the rest of our lives for that. "The High Price of Inspiration"? A bargain.1. Opening Statement
2. It Runs Together
3. Half Ass Moses
4. Dope Is Dope
5. Burn Out Shoes
6. Roman Candles
7. Ascending Into Madness
8. Throwing The Goats
9. Something Else
11. The High Price of Inspiration
13. Purple Mountain Jamboree$25.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Interludes For The DeadCircles Around The Sun (Neal Casal) was commissioned to compose and record over five hours of original music for the intermissions at the Fare Thee Well shows. There was such a positive response to the music that Rhino US will be releasing it!
Neal Casal is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, and photographer. First rising to prominence as lead guitar with Rickey Medlocke's Blackfoot from 1988-1993, Neal was best known as a member of Ryan Adams' backing band the Cardinals, with whom he recorded three studio albums, and of whom he was a member from 2005 until 2009. Casal currently plays in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and has released twelve solo albums.1. Hallucinate A Solution
2. Gilbert's Groove
3. Farewell Franklins (2nd Cycle)
4. Kasey's Bones
5. Space Wheel$34.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
CardinologyRyan Adams & The Cardinals released their new album entitled Cardinology on Lost Highway Records. The release follows-up 2005's Jacksonville City Lights and is the band's first album to be billed as solely The Cardinals. The Cardinals Are : Ryan Adams Brad Pemberton John Graboff Neal Casal Chris Feinstein1. Born Into A Light
2. Go Easy
3. Fix It
6. Let Us Down Easy
7. Crossed Out Name
8. Natural Ghost
9. Sink Ships
11. Like Yesterday
12. Stop$16.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Many Colored Kite
Many Colored Kite is the follow-up to his 2007 personal milestone Salvation Blues, a soul-searching album of loss and change that further cemented Olsons reputation as one of the true heroes of the folk/roots scene. The album was a New York Times critics pick and received rave reviews for its autobiographical, often painful songs. Its a hopeful Olson that greets the listener on Many Colored Kite, with its earthy, neo-folk feel that encompasses classic and 60s British folk as well as the desert country hes been associated with in the past.
The opening track, Little Bird of Freedom (with backing vocals by Jolie Holland), sets the tone of the album: these are songs by a man whos made it through the eye of the tempest and is looking at the world as if hes seeing it for the first time. Elsewhere Many Colored Kites airy, uncluttered songs celebrate life and nature (Wind and Rain, Morning Dove) and love (Blue Bell, No Time to Live Without Her featuring Vashti Bunyan). Produced, mixed and engineered by Beau Raymond (Devendra Banhart, Little Joy, Mark Olson and Gary Louris) and featuring the core group of Olson, Neal Casal and Danny Frankel, this is a wide-eyed, uplifting album with soaring, ethereal harmonies contributed by Ingunn Ringvold.1. Little Bird of Freedom (featuring Jolie Holland)
2. Morning Dove
3. Many Colored Kite
4. Bluebell Song
6. No Time To Live Without Her (featuring Vashti Bunyan)
7. Your Life Beside Us
10. Wind And Rain
11. More Hours$18.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
The Magic DoorThe fruits of the band's hard-charging January of 2012 recording session with producer Thom Monahan are heard not only on Big Moon Ritual but in its companion album The Magic Door, set for release in the fall of 2012. Each album spotlights seven tunes, with The Magic Door containing six originals: Someday Past The Sunset, Vibration & Light Suite, Appaloosa, Little Lizzie Mae, Sorrows of a Blue Eyed Liar and Wheel Don't Roll plus a cover of Hank Ballard's Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go, a CRB set list staple.
Chris Robinson (lead, vocals, guitar), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark Dutton (bass, vocals) create exciting musical sparks throughout The Magic Door. We really feel these records set the stage for another full year, where we'll see how far we can go with it, says Robinson. We already feel successful because we have the freedom to do what we want. And it's always cosmic. The times demand it. Gatefold vinyl from Silver Arrow/MRI Entertainment.1. Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go
2. Someday Past The Sunset
4. Vibration & Light Suite
5. Little Lizzie Mae
6. Sorrows of a Blue Eyed Liar
7. Wheel I Don't Roll$16.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
REDD-SIL-5981xChris Robinson Brotherhood
Purple & Orange Colored Vinyl
7 Contains Two Additional Tracks
The CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD unveil their third studio album PHOSPHORESCENT HARVEST via Silver Arrow Records. The band--Chris Robinson (lead vocals, guitar), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark Dutton (bass, vocals)--will also hit the road in conjunction with the album's release.
PHOSPHORESCENT HARVEST is a treasure trove of 10 songs--including several the band road-tested over the last few years--that advances the band's kaleidoscopic sound, which is deeply soulful, rootsy and spacey all at once. There's strong songcraft here, with a free-flowing delivery; it is music that is in no hurry to reach its destination but firmly knows where it is going. From the beginning, the CRB set out to do something different from what they had done before, creating their own scene with a musical prowess, cohesive songwriting and a unified commitment to experimentation, both in the studio and on the road (they've performed over 230 shows since forming in 2011).
The best perspective I have on what's going on in my life--good and bad--is what comes out in the songs, says Chris Robinson. As you move on in time, you get older, you have relationships. Some of them are good, some fail. Friends. Drugs. Life. Death. People come, people go. Songwriting is a completely different emotional response to your life and to what it means, to in some poetic nature, put it out there.
PHOSPHORESCENT HARVEST follows the release of the companion albums Big Moon Ritual (June 2012) and The Magic Door (September 2012) plus last year's live quadruple vinyl Betty's S.F. Blends, Vol 1. The group continues to record with producer Thom Monahan, and Robinson wrote all of the songs with Casal, save for two that are Robinson solo compositions (Tornado, Jump The Turnstiles).
We're really going by the electricity and the vibrations that we can sort of tune in to, Robinson recently told Relix magazine (Jan/Feb '14). There's a psychedelic component to it. That's part of the greasing the wheels of the great cosmic engine, with psychedelic thought and philosophy and action. If you get my drift. He went on to talk about the more rock and roll feel on PHOSPHORESCENT HARVEST, and his overall vision for the Brotherhood: I'm not going to have hit records. I don't write pop songs. But then again, I find a deep need to express myself and how I'm feeling and where I am and where I've been and where I'm going by writing songs. Why change something to make it easier for anyone else, when I think if we stay sincere and keep our energies in a real creative place, then people will wander into our small community, and it maybe would get more popular to tend that garden is a great responsibility. But I want it to grow. Check out the whole Relix feature here.
Rolling Stone editor David Fricke picked the CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD as one of his favorites of 2012, and praised their live performance in New York City, saying the singer's acid-country Brotherhood, with ex-Ryan Adams guitarist Neal Casal, were a sublime time onstage and across these two albums, recorded at the same sessions and issued six months apart. The Irving Plaza show was a characteristic live high. In the second set, Robinson steered out of a rattling 'Tough Mama,' from Bob Dylan's Planet Waves, into the long reverie 'Girl on the Mountain,' a song from an earlier side trip, New Earth Mud, given fresh air and a new coat of DayGlo paint (1/30/13).1. Shore Power
2. About a Stranger
3. Meanwhile In The Gods....
4. Badlands Here We Come
5. Clear Blue Sky & The Good Doctor
6. Beggar's Moon
7. Wanderer's Lament
9. Jump The Turnstiles
10. Burn Slow
1. Humboldt Windchimes
2. Star Crossed Lonely Sailor$21.99Colored Vinyl LP + 7 - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
REDD-SIL-1890xChris Robinson Brotherhood
Anyway You Love, We Know How You FeelThe Chris Robinson Brotherhood have announced the release of their fourth studio album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, via Robinson's own Silver Arrow Records. The band relocated to northern California for the sessions, recording on the side of a mountain overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean and channeling the natural majesty of their surroundings into the album's eight sprawling tracks. Having spent the prior two years touring relentlessly, the CRB were road-tested and in peak form to capture their kinetic chemistry and immersive sound, which Uncut Magazine called, " a celebration of how American musical traditions can be at once honored and psychedelically expanded."
"It was an opportunity to see where our expression could take us. For us, when it comes to making records, the looser it gets the better," says Robinson. "It's all about taking our intuition and following it to where our ideas can really manifest themselves. This turned out to be the most spontaneous record I've ever been a part of."
Indeed, when the Chris Robinson Brotherhood entered the studio to begin recording the album, no one knew just what to expect. These would be the band's first recordings with new drummer Tony Leone (Ollabelle, Levon Helm) and their first time producing themselves. Robinson purposely left as much open-ended as possible. Rather than coming into the studio with a collection of finished songs as he had in the past, he would present the group with sketches-a verse and melody here, a chorus and chord progression there-and let the band follow its collective muse to bring the music to life. They'd lean into the improvisational nature that makes their live shows such enthralling spectacles and thrive on the unexpected.
"All it takes is one good, small idea, and then if everyone's focused and in the moment, a few hours later, you can have something that you realize you'll be playing for as long as you're making music," Robinson continues. "I think when everyone's aware that that's the sort of magic that we're looking for. More than any other session that I've ever been a part of, that's how all of these songs were done."
The album kicks off with "Narcissus Soaking Wet," a psychedelic toe-tapper that marks Robinson's first co-write with keyboardist Adam MacDougall. It touches on everything from Dylan and Parliament Funkadelic to psych rock and Chicago rhythm and blues. "Ain't It Hard But Fair" calls to mind the soulful Americana of The Band, while "Oak Apple Day" is a mediation on life in the CRB, and "Forever As The Moon" came together in a stream of consciousness between The CRB's lead guitarist Neal Casal and Robinson. "Leave My Guitar Alone" was a song Robinson had been sitting on for nearly 15 years, but only once he presented it to the rest of the band did it roar to life in a way that had eluded him for more than a decade. Some of Robinson's finest writing to date arrives in the album's final minutes, with the country-soul, gospel-tinged closer "California Hymn," which finds him singing "Glory glory hallelujah / It's time to spread the news / Though my good words may sound profane to some."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood emerged in 2011 by playing close to 50 shows over nine weeks in California before ever leaving the Golden State or officially releasing music. Their introduction on the national stage came in 2012 when they'd release not one, but two acclaimed full-length albums within a few months of each other. Critics hailed their sprawling debut, Big Moon Ritual, as a revelation, with The Independent raving that Robinson had "finally found the ideal vehicle to indulge his taste for 'Cosmic California Music.'" The reviews were similarly ecstatic for its immediate follow-up, The Magic Door, which was praised by Relix as "classic rock in the finest sense." The band's epic tour schedule brought their shimmering acid-Americana around the world for a staggering 118-date tour, firmly establishing the CRB as the new standard-bearers of the psychedelic roots torch. In 2014, they returned to the studio for Phosphorescent Harvest, a masterful collection that showcased the blossoming songwriting partnership between Robinson and Neal Casal. Rolling Stone raved that the album was "electrifying boast[ing] a vintage rock vibe that's at once quirky, trippy, soulful and downright magnetic," and Guitar World called it "a treasure trove of soul that advances the band's bluesy, kaleidoscopic sound."1. Narcissus Soaking Wet
2. Forever As the Moon
3. Ain't It Hard But Fair
4. Give Us Back Our Eleven Days
5. Some Gardens Green
6. Leave My Guitar Alone
7. Oak Apple Day
8. California Hymn$21.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
REDD-SIL-4075xChris Robinson Brotherhood
Barefoot in the HeadThey say the only people who know true freedom are musicians and gangsters, Chris Robinson says with a laugh. And Bob Dylan said to live outside the law you must be honest. We're living in these anxiety-filled times, in an era of 'no truth,' but what our music represents is this truly honest way of communicating with people, and that's a really freeing thing.
If their stellar new album, 'Barefoot In The Head,' is any indication, freedom suits the Chris Robinson Brotherhood well. The band is in the midst of one of their most prolific periods to date, with a slew of studio and live records coming out amidst a rigorous tour schedule that only seems to fuel their fire even further. 'Barefoot In The Head' finds the band pushing boundaries and breaking new ground with more joy and wonder than ever before. The album showcases the continued growth of Robinson's songwriting partnership with his bandmates (guitarist Neal Casal, drummer Tony Leone, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, and bassist Jeff Hill), while reveling in the kind of playful adventurousness that can only come from five artists tuned in to the same sonic wavelength.
The album opens with the Americana funk of Behold The Seer, which sounds like something of a mission statement for the CRB as Robinson sings, If you want to keep your engine humming / Keep your eyes wide ahead and don't look back. On the dreamy She Shares My Blanket, Robinson crafts cinematic scenes from a winter love affair in the mountains, while elegant pedal steel added by special guest Barry Sless on Blonde Light Of Day casts a warm, romantic haze and Blue Star Woman sounds like T-Rex dressed in overalls living on a West Coast commune. Throughout the album, Robinson and the band deftly intertwine country, blues and psychedelia, even channeling freewheeling 60s' folk on Hark The Herald Hermit Speaks, a breakneck stream of consciousness that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. On the English psych inspired Glow, which Robinson calls one of the most special things I've ever done in the studio, The CRB are joined by the celebrated sarodist Alam Khan (son of the legendary Ali Akbar Khan).
After six years of solid touring with this band, we can still roll into Fayetteville, AR on a Tuesday night and have the most fun of any musical thing I've ever been a part of, says Robinson. We don't have the weight of responsibility or nostalgia, which means we're in the very psychedelic situation of getting to be totally honest and create everything in the moment. That's freedom.1. Behold the Seer
2. She Shares My Blanket
3. Hark, the Herald Hermit Speaks
4. Blonde Light of Morning
5. Dog Eat Sun
6. Blue Star Woman
7. High Is Not the Top
8. If You Had a Heart To Break
10. Good To Know$21.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now