Neal Casal “Cora Jones” – Listen to this previously unreleased song

Photo: Kevin Wells

Neal Casal needs no introduction around here, and although this is not an unkown song as such it has never had an official cleaned up and ready to hear release.  There’s quite a story behind how the late songwriter came to write and record this song.

In the early 1990s, Neal Casal spent much of his free time on outdoor adventures with his close friends Eric and Libby McDonald near their house in rural Wisconsin. It was a beautiful, idyllic time that stunningly and sadly was broken by the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year old local girl, Cora Jones. The community was devastated by this awful event and Casal was particularly affected to think such horror could randomly come to this special place he loved to visit. He was moved to write ‘Cora Jones‘ as a tribute to her and what he learned about her short life.

Adapting the vocal melody from one of his favourite songs, The Byrds’ version of Woody Guthrie’s depression-era ballad ‘Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),’ Casal recorded the song in 1998 at Studio City in Van Nuys, CA with Jim Scott producing, Greg Leisz playing bass and pedal steel, Don Heffington on drums and John Ginty on piano.

Written from the perspective of the narrator during Christmas season, on the outro of the song, the musicians drift into the beautiful melody of ‘Silent Night,’ while right before the session was completed, Jim Scott had the last minute idea to call in his friend, renowned opera singer Juliana Gondek, to sing over that melody. She battled through Los Angeles traffic for a few hours, walked in to the studio and stunned all with her vocal in one take, capping off an emotional and incredible day of recording for Casal on what he considered one of his greatest songs.


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About Jonathan Aird 2182 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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