It's fair to say Neal Casal is something of a multi-tasker, especially given a prodigious career that's taken him from Rickey Medlocke's band Blackfoot early on, to steadfast service as a member of Ryan Adams' long-time back-up combo the Cardinals, and currently, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and his sometime super group Hard Working Americans. Equally impressive is the fact that he's released no fewer than 12 solo albums, most of which have gone unnoticed, but still remain classic examples of astute Americana.
As further proof of Casal's industriousness, he currently touts two new projects. One, tellingly titled "Circles Around the Sun," is a collection of freewheeling jams played prominently during the Dead's Fare Thee Well concerts in Chicago this past summer. Commissioned specifically for that auspicious event and played during the intermissions, it was recently released to commemorate Casal's contributions to those sold-out shows.
The other, a new super group of sorts, goes by the collective handle of GospelbeacH and will likely prove much more resilient. "Pacific Surf Line," the band's illuminating debut, accentuates a style that bears testimony to the album title, a series of sun-drenched, softly shimmering Southern California rock that pays due reverence to both the Beach Boys and Neil Young in nearly equal measure. The dreamy designs soaked through songs like "Sunshine Skyway" and "Southern Girl" boast the breezy aural imagery of a hazy Pacific sunset, while the infectious rhythms that accompany "California Steamer" and the cleverly titled "Out of My Mind (On Cope and Reed)" invoke a kind of carefree indulgence that could easily have wafted out of Laurel Canyon circa 1969. Indeed, the entire album comes across as a time warp of sorts, a brilliant paean to pure hippy happenstance.
Casal's ongoing efforts deserve far more attention than he's attained thus far, and if justice is served at all, ought to propel him front and center, his servitude to others notwithstanding. With the brilliant GospelbeacH, let's hope that prayer is answered soon.