Various Artists – Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal (The Neal Casal Music Foundation & Royal Potato)
Neal Casal may not have been a household name to the casual music fan, but when he passed away in 2019 it was clear just how much of an impact he had on fellow musicians with tributes and remembrance coming in from artists across every conceivable genre.
Starting with his solo debut in the mid-1990s and his work with the Chris Robinson Band, Ryan Adams’ band The Cardinals and alongside Todd Snider and members of Widespread Panic in The Hard Working Americans, Casal was a wildly in demand band member and session musician whose musical prowess seemed to be eclipse only by his personality. It should come as no surprise than that so many friends and fellow musicians came out to pay tribute to Casal, recording his songs on Highway Butterfly. The 41 songs here were culled from his 14 albums and features covers from some of the best in Americana, Bluegrass, Country, Blues and Jam music.
The album opens with Aaron Lee Tasjan doing a fantastic take on “Traveling After Dark,” followed immediately by Jaime Wyatt’s cover of “Need Shelter.” Casal last studio gig was providing guitar on Wyatt’s Neon Cross, released last year shortly after he died. Elsewhere on the record J. Mascis does an inspired take on “Death of a Dream” and Steve Earle & The Dukes offer a solid version of the title track. Given the breadth of artists that went into the studio to interpret Casal’s music there’s just about something here for every music fan out there.
The idea for the album came out of a tribute concert in Port Chester, NY, organized by Gary Waldman, Casal’s longtime friend and manager. The show boasted a slew of musicians covering his songs for charity, raising more than $25,000. Many of those same musicians came out to contribute songs to this record which was spurred on by a Kickstarter campaign with fans donating $150,000 to cover recording costs and other expenses in putting out this record. The result – available digitally, on five LPs or three CDs – was co-produced by Dave Schools (Casal’s bandmate in Hard Working Americans) and Jim Scott who produced Casal’s first record.
Highway Butterfly not only showcases just how brilliant a songwriter Casal was in the three decades he worked across, but it’s a testament to how important he was in the lives of so many fellow musicians that he was able to inspire so many to re-record his song. A beautiful tribute to Casal’s legacy. https://nealcasalmusicfoundation.org/highway-butterfly