In September 1994, the innocence of Rural, WI was taken with the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Cora Jones. The girl’s murder shook the small town’s residents, and even a frequent visitor, Neal Casal. The late guitarist who would go on to find fame with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Circles Around The Sun was so moved by the tragedy that in 1998 he recorded a song named for Cora Jones, available now from the Neal Casal Music Foundation.

“Cora Jones” is the latest posthumous release from Casal, who died of suicide in August 2019, and is available thanks to his longtime friend and producer Jim Scott. Scott was there that day in 1998 at Studio City in Van Nuys, CA when Casal recorded the song, and since Neal’s death, Jim has taken on the role of curating the guitarist’s mass of archival content.

Related: Dave Schools On Transmitting His Grief Into ‘Highway Butterfly: The Songs Of Neal Casal’ [Interview]

Also with Neal that day at Studio City was Greg Leisz (Bob Weir & Wolf Bros) who provides soaring pedal steel to Casal’s adaptation of The Byrds‘ version of Woody Guthrie‘s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)”, one of his favorite songs. Much like David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, “Cora Jones” examines the lingering darkness that hides beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic communities.

In the wake of Casal’s passing and his lifelong battle with depression, the song’s exploration of the despair that plagues so many during the holidays—a time of so much joy for many—is even more poignant. According to a press release, Casal reportedly considered “Cora Jones” one of his greatest songs. Though the song looks at the dark side of Christmas, it ends with some bittersweet sentimentality as the musicians drift into the familiar “Silent Night”, with renowned opera singer Juliana Gondek providing angelic backing vocals.

Neal Casal – “Cora Jones”