We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club. Fortunately, we end up liking some of them. In Playlisted, we share our latest recommendations.
Album: Sweeten The Distance by Neal Casal (out now on Royal Potato Family)
Press play if you like: Early-’70s California folk-rock, Cardinals-era Ryan Adams, pretty songs with the rough edges left in
Some background: Neal Casal has been working as a singer-songwriter since the mid-’90s (Sweeten The Distance is his 10th album), but he’s probably best known as an in-demand sideman for other artists. In 2006, he joined Ryan Adams’ backing band, The Cardinals, playing on 2007’s Easy Tiger and staying with Adams until The Cardinals broke up after the release of Cardinology in 2009. Casal now plays a central role in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the even jammier side project for Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson. The common thread in the bands Casal has played in—loose, hippie-friendly, and spaced-out folk and country-rock—carries over to Distance, which enlivens Casal’s sure hand with melody and harmony with his quietly masterful, Jerry Garcia-inspired guitar licks. For fans of Adams’ work with the Cardinals, Distance is almost like having another record from that period, as Casal shares his ex-boss’ proclivity for sweetly melancholic acoustic ballads like “Bird With No Name” and “Feathers For Bakersfield” and big, super-charged rockers like “So Many Enemies.”
Try this: “White Fence Round House” is an example of Casal’s “sweetly melancholic” side. Backed by sighing pedal steel and softly brushed drums, Casal sings about holding on to something just a little longer. He could be singing to a woman, or the setting sun over the Pacific.