An all-star cast of artists will pay homage the late Neal Casal with Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal, a tribute album set to be recorded over the course of the next few months. The announcement notes that the album will be produced by longtime Casal collaborators Jim Scott (who produced both Neal’s first and last albums) and Dave Schools (the Widespread Panic bassist who played with Neal in Hard Working Americans). Justin Kreutzmann will document the recording process for an accompanying, behind-the-scenes film.
The project will feature material from throughout Neal’s extensive career, which begat numerous solo releases as well as stints with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, Beachwood Sparks, Circles Around The Sun, and more. While the complete list of tracks and personnel has yet to be released, the official announcement notes that the first installment, to be recorded on Monday, February 10th, will feature Billy Strings accompanied by Circles Around The Sun.
While the album is meant as a tribute to Neal’s impressive body of work as a songwriter, singer, guitarist, producer, and photographer, its mission is twofold. The long-term goal of the project is to “bring more attention to the public about the life that so many working musicians and artists lead, sacrificing a normal lifestyle to devote themselves to performing and creating, ultimately adding a deep thread of meaning to listeners’ lives. A life on the road takes its toll on a musician’s physical and mental health. Casal said as much in a note left behind prior to committing suicide in August 2019.”
In support of that mission, proceeds generated from sales of Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal will be donated to MusiCares and Backline, two organizations that provide important health and mental wellness care for musicians in need. In addition, all publishing royalties from sales and streams of the compilation will be donated to the newly formed Neal Casal Music Foundation, which aims to provide music lessons and musical instruments to children in Neal’s home state of New Jersey.
The album takes its name from the late-’90s Casal track “Highway Butterfly”, written in the wake of Townes Van Zandt‘s death on New Year’s Day 1997. Earlier this year, during an emotional tribute show at The Capitol Theatre, revered singer-songwriter Steve Earle covered the song in Neal’s honor. As Earle noted on that night, “I only knew Neal a little bit, but I saw him play a lot and I learned something every time I did.” While the full tracklisting for Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal has yet to be released, we’re hoping this particular cover gets the studio treatment for this new compilation.
Check out the official announcement clip featuring animation by Kaleida Studio below:
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Today we are excited to announce Highway Butterfly: The Songs Of Neal Casal A Benefit Album For @musicares @backline.care and the Neal Casal Music Foundation. Over the next few months artists from across the music world will be covering Neal’s songs for a tribute album to be released later this year. The album will be co-produced by Jim Scott and @david_a_schools and there will also be a documentary film about Neal being filmed by @justinkreutzmann. We will be announcing which artists are participating as they record and and will also be sharing film clips from the recording sessions. Recording starts on Monday with @billystrings backed up by @circlesaroundthesunofficial Stay tuned! Animation by @kaleidastudio
Fans of Neal Casal should also look out for Circles Around The Sun’s forthcoming, self-titled studio album—which features Neal Casal’s final recordings—is due out on March 13th.