Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal—a tribute to the life and music of the gifted singer, songwriter and musician—has been announced for release on November 12, 2021. A sprawling 41-song collection, now available for pre-order as both 5-LP and 3-CD box sets, brings together a galaxy of rock and roots luminaries that includes Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks, Bob Weir, Hiss Golden Messenger, Fruit Bats, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Jonathan Wilson, Vetiver, Shooter Jennings, Beachwood Sparks, Jaime Wyatt, Marcus King, J Mascis, Dori Freeman, Warren Haynes, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Cass McCombs, Leslie Mendelson, Johnathan Rice, Billy Strings, Kenny Roby, Norah Jones’ Puss N Boots and Aaron Lee Tasjan among many others.
Today, the second single from the tribute is released featuring Beachwood Sparks & GospelbeacH’s rendition of “You Don’t See Me Crying along with an accompanying video directed by Cyril Pooley Jean. A Highway Butterfly video trailer, directed by Justin Kreutzmann, was also made available and can be viewed below.
All proceeds from sales of Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal will benefit the Neal Casal Music Foundation, 501c3 non-profit formed in 2020, which provides musical instruments and lessons to students in New Jersey and New York state schools where Casal was born and raised, while also donating proceeds to mental health organizations that support musicians, including MusiCares and Backline.
Casal released 14 albums under his own name during a career spanning a quarter century. He was also an integral member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the interconnected Beachwood Sparks and GospelbeacH, Hard Working Americans, The Skiffle Players, Hazy Malaze and Circles Around the Sun.
Honoring Casal’s memory was a genuine labor of love for everyone involved. Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal was co-produced by Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools and multiple Grammy Award-winning recording engineer/producer Jim Scott, while the project was the brainchild of Gary Waldman, Neal’s close friend and longtime manager, who became the guardian of his legacy after his death in 2019.
“For years we were always trying to get people to cover his songs, and we just never had much luck,” explains Waldman. “But the songs are so good—why aren’t they being interpreted by other artists? And now you hear this record, and it really works. I’m thrilled with it; I think it’s beautiful, and it’s a great testament to how many cool songs he wrote.”
“As soon as word got out about the project, the wheels started rolling fast,” Schools recalls. “People were calling us up, friends of Neal’s, other artists who had only brushed up against him, and saying they wanted to be part of it. We had intended to have it be around 18 songs, but it just kept exploding.”
“It’s really quite phenomenal that we were able to have 41 of Neal’s songs recorded by this incredible group of artists. Some of the recordings were with the original studio band from his first album, Fade Away Diamond Time,” adds Scott. “I know Neal would have been delighted to have so many amazing female artists reinvent his songs and lyrics too. Listening again to his words made me wish I had talked to him more about what he was going through.”
In addition to 41 performances of Neal Casal songs by 130 participating musicians, the box set includes LP sleeves with rare and previously unpublished photos of Casal, a 48-page booklet presenting song lyrics, Casal’s own iconic work as a photographer and an essay by early career champion Jim Cardillo. Additional collectibles include a poster and baseball card with photos of Casal by photographer Jay Blakesberg and stickers designed by poster artists Alan Forbes and Marq Spusta. The Neal Casal Music Foundation and record label Royal Potato Family who partnered to release the collection will also be working with ClimeCo to voluntarily mitigate the carbon emissions from the manufacturing and shipping of the box sets.
Listening to this more than three hours of varied yet seamless music reveals how closely connected the participating musicians are with the spirit of this endeavor and the artist who inspired it. Each reframing finds the existentially bittersweet eloquence at the core of the song—the interplay of light and darkness that was the defining element of Casal’s artistry.
“I really wish I could drive around and listen to this record with Neal, because he would just be shocked by it,” concludes Waldman. “I think it would blow his mind, because he never would have imagined it. It’s really that good.”
Highway Butterfly: The Songs Of Neal Casal
1. Traveling After Dark – Aaron Lee Tasjan
2. Need Shelter – Jaime Wyatt
3. You Don’t See Me Crying – Beachwood Sparks w/ GospelbeacH
4. No One Above You – Marcus King w/ Eric Krasno
5. Feathers For Bakersfield – Fruit Bats
6. All The Luck In the World – Billy Strings w/ Circles Around The Sun
7. Sweeten The Distance – Dori Freeman w/ Teddy Thompson
8. Time Down The Wind – Hiss Golden Messenger
9. Me & Queen Sylvia – Johnathan Rice
10. Wisest Of The Wise – Mapache
11. Freeway To The Canyon – Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band
12. Feel No Pain – Leslie Mendelson
13. Detroit Or Buffalo – Jonathan Wilson w/ Hannah Cohen
14. Day In The Sun – Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks
15. Bird With No Name – Jimmy Herring w/ Circles Around The Sun
16. Maybe California – Shooter Jennings
17. White Fence Round House – Vetiver
18. December – Todd Sheaffer
19. Grand Island – Courtney Jaye
20. Superhighway – Oteil Burbridge, Nick Johnson, Steve Kimock, John Morgan Kimock & Duane Trucks
21. Willow Jane – Britton Buchanan
22. Too Much To Ask – Kenny Roby w/ Amy Helm
23. Time And Trouble – Bob Weir w/ Jay Lane & Dave Schools
24. Death Of A Dream – J Mascis
25. The Cold and The Darkness – Tim Heidecker
26. Free To Go – Warren Haynes
27. So Far Astray – Rachel Dean
28. Highway Butterfly – Steve Earle & The Dukes
29. Angel And You’re Mine – Victoria Reed
30. Pray Me Home – Jason Crosby
31. Lost Satellite – Lauren Barth
32. The Losing End Again – Jesse Aycock
33. These Days With You – Puss N Boots
34. Cold Waves – Tim Bluhm, Kyle Field
35. Best To Bonnie – Zephaniah Ohora w/ Hazeldine
36. Let It All Begin – The Mattson 2
37. You’ll Miss It When It’s Gone – Cass McCombs, Ross James, Joe Russo, Farmer Dave Scher & Dave Schools
38. Fell On Hard Times – Angie McKenna
39. Raining Straight Down – The Allman Betts Band
40. Soul Gets Lost – Hazy Malaze w/ Jena Kraus
41. I Will Weep No More – Robbi Robb