Preface: Only read this if you have a built appreciation for Ryan Adams and his Cardinals.
Last weekend, my brother and I were hanging out over at Caylin Cervetti's house (she is a friend of Cooper/Ben/Audrey/Amanda/Andrea). So Ben and I were sitting there listening to the Slumdog Millionaire OST and eating Indian food. Audrey looks over at me with wide, excited eyes.
She says, "Will, guess who is coming over! Neal Casal!"
I looked at her, confused, thinking to myself, "Hmmm...that name....whoa...Neal Casal?! As in, Cardinal Neal Casal? (Not to be confused with Cardinal Richelieu)
Neal Casal was a part of Ryan Adams and The Cardinals from 2005 all the way through early last year. If you don't remember, The Cardinals were formed back in 2004. Casal was a huge part of Easy Tiger, Follow the Lights, and Cardinology. Ryan Adams considers him the bedrock of The Cardinals. I think he meshed best with Adams' Rolling Stones/Guns N' Roses/Emmylou Harris/Oasis aesthetic. He has released 9 solo albums and has lent himself to many various projects, such as Hazy Malaze. Caylin Cervetti is a stand-in for Gwyneth Paltrow in her new movie, Love, Don't Let Me Down. Paltrow plays an addicted-to-drugs Faith Hill...and Casal is in Paltrow's band in the film.
So Ben and I are sitting there, mouths gaping, thinking, "Oh man....I look like a just woke up! Where are my sweet new kicks?"
So Casal walks in and we all shake his hand. At first, Ben and I try not to gush over him and let him know that we indeed know who he is. Someone asked him where he's from and he said he's been living in L.A. Ben looked at him and said, "Oh, I wasn't sure if you were still living in New York, since that's where you've been with The Cardinals." My mind fainted at that moment. I was thinking, "Ben! He's gonna pull a gun out and shoot you! He's gonna wanna dump your body in the TN river, so that you don't follow him back to his house and try to spoon with him!"
But Casal pulled his head up from eating his Indian food and politely said, "Oh, yea, noo..since The Cardinals broke up, I've been in L.A." He seemed a bit shocked that someone recognized him. Little does he know, he's sitting in a room with some people who fantasize about skateboarding with Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore...and that we tried to outdo Ryan Adams and Jon Graboff during their sock competition that was blogged pretty heavily... oh and that we stitched our very own denim jackets with the rose on the back.
So, Ben broke the ice. Now we could drive Casal nuts with our admiration.
Later on in the night, we all went to The Family Wash to see Earl Scruggs' grandson mimic Hank Williams Senior. Ben & Audrey & I asked Casal all about his time with The Cardinals. We mentioned the times we've seen Ryan live and Casal remembered every detail of everything (my thoughts are because he takes so many photos). Ben mentioned how he learned "Let It Ride" on guitar by watching a BBC performance they did in Ireland. He remembered that performance well, telling us what kind of Scotch him and Adams drank after the show and how many hours of sleep he got the night before and the arguments that him and Adams would get into. We asked him what it was like to get left on the curb last year when Adams decided to move on to different things. He told us that Adams was great to work with and that it's disappointing to not be around Adams as much anymore. He ended up explaining to us that Adams is forming a new band this year. Ben and I mentioned that Adams set the bar pretty high with The Cardinals. I also asked him if he knows Taylor Dudney (since Taylor's uncle, Brad Pemberton, played drums in The Cardinals) but he said he didn't.
When I listen to Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, I never think to myself, "Oh, that's Catherine Popper playing piano right now." Or ohhhh that's Jon Graboff or Chris Feinstein or J.P. Bowersock. But when I hear Casal, I know it's him, because he's got really distinctive style.
So meeting him was pretty special.
He told us that he is coming out with a book of photography on February 23rd, called Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows. He told us this book is very meaningful to him and that he's extremely excited for it to come out. He said the book has over 200 photos that share an inside scope on Ryan Adams, The Cardinals, and especially note the importance of Chris Feinstein's life (he died over Christmas break in 2009 and was known as Space Wolf and contributed bass guitar to The Cardinals).
Casal has a website where you can view his photography. His stuff is pretty amazing, recapping memories he has with The Cardinals and also Vetiver, Willie Nelson, Oasis, Martha Wainwright, and Jenny Lewis.
Here are some of my favorites of his photography: