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Music Reviews

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Castle Talk
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Neal Casal
Leaving Traces: Songs 1994-2004
Fargo Records

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Neal Casal is an alt-country troubadour, sharing aural frequencies with Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar, Neal Adams and the like. He's a little more polished than the two former, and not quite as recognized as the latter, but Casal's clean vocals and picking prowess has earned him some national recognition, including "Americana Record of the Year" in 1999 from Mojo for his record, Basement Dreams.

Leaving Traces: Songs 1994-2004 is a career retrospective, capturing songs from Casal's five-album catalog. He knows how to appeal, as evidenced by the opening track, "Free To Go" - his voice is clear and strong; his song structure pretty standard fair, but with a largely appealing result. In fact, after giving the disc a once-over, Casal's strongest suit is his ability to create inoffensive music, both in sound and concept.

His music and vocals are likable, and his lyrics aren't overtly absurd or insulting. He manages to combine country, pop, rock and even some blues into the mix, but ultimately, it's nothing spectacular.

Casal lacks the originality and gumption of his contemporaries, leading him eventually, perhaps, to what might become a commercially successful but forgettable career.

Not that all music needs to be groundbreaking or original to be enjoyable, and Casal's music is decidedly that at times. Over an hour in length, Leaving Traces: Songs 1994-2004 offers more than enough music to pass the time, but don't expect to remember much of it the next day.

Reviewed by David Spain
Based in Chicago, Illinois, David Spain is a contributing writer for LAS magazine.

See other reviews by David Spain



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